2 min Read
April 5, 2012

Selling Yourself Short: Thoughts on Nicknames and Nonprofit Acronyms

Big Duck

As a Katherine known to close friends and family as a Katie, I’ve long struggled with feeling like I’ve outgrown my nickname but haven’t yet grown into my full name. I often wonder how things would have played out for me (especially during high school) had my mom gotten the go-ahead from Dad to christen me Jennifer.

In life, it’s tricky to know how to proceed when there’s a name that’s a better fit with your personality and overall essence than the one your parents gave you. From what I understand, going through with an official name change is an arduous legal procedure. In the world of nonprofit communications, such a feat is daunting, but less so.

Since coming to Big Duck as a Copywriting Intern, I’ve learned more about the importance of an organization’s name and things to consider as you ponder a name change.

A name is one of many factors that affect how external audiences talk about and come to think of your organization. It conjures certain connotations and attributes. In an ideal scenario, those connotations and attributes are consistent with how you think of your organization.

Acronyms, I’ve learned, present a problem on par with the challenges created by nicknames. Maybe an acronym says nothing about the amazing work your organization does. Perhaps it just sounds kind of blah, like in the case of the Bavarian Liberation Army or the Boston Latin Academy. But it’s easy to overlook an acronym’s shortcomings if it stands for something witty, on-brand, or even profound.

Not so long ago, Big Duck worked with an organization that decided to take the plunge and change their name. The Colorectal Cancer Coalition often used the acronym “C3,” which didn’t really distinguish them from the many other organizations working today. They had already been using the phrase “Fight Colorectal Cancer” as their URL, and the concise yet punchy combination of words jumped out as a more accurate and compelling description of their work–all the makings of a new name.

If you do change your name, how do you convince other people to get with the program?

Old habits die hard. Even though I prefer to go by Katherine or Kate these days, my mom will never call me anything other than Katie. It’s tricky to get people to change what they’re used to.

Your supporters and donors–and your staff–have likely grown accustomed to whatever name or acronym your organization is currently using. It will be a challenge to get them to regularly refer to you as something different. Don’t get discouraged; be patient yet firm with them, and stay committed to the new name you’ve chosen.

What does commitment to a new name look like? Kind of like Prince in 1993. When he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol that year, Warner Bros. organized a mass mailing of floppy disks with a custom font to use the so-called “Love Symbol” in print media. A lesson in dedication we can all learn from. Especially since we all have our Warner Bros.-style, multi-million-dollar nonprofit budgets.