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Naming Your Organization, The Dos and Don’ts

Naming your organization is one of the most important factors in your work’s success. With the right name, your organization can quickly become the talk of the town; At the same time, the wrong one can handicap your organization and its chances of success. Inc. magazine points out that choosing the right name is crucial because it is the first touchpoint people get. It sums up everything an organization is about.

So, choosing what to name your organization is an essential task. And to help you out, we’ve listed down the main dos and don’ts when selecting a name.


Do Let Your Messaging Framework Guide You

Whether you call it your brand strategy or, as we do, the Focus & Messaging Framework, let it guide you. It brings to life the who, what, and why of what you do consistently across everything touchpoint.

What does your organization do? A lot of successful organizations have chosen to add action words to their name, such as Feeding America, Save the Children, and Teach for America. Whom does your organization aim to help? Choose words that describe the people you serve. Lastly, who is providing the help? Sometimes it’s essential to name who your members are. Specific organizations that include their members in their names include Fathers For Good and Doctors Without Borders.


Don’t Use Arbitrary Words That Don’t Connect to Your Mission

When naming your organization, try to avoid using arbitrary words that don’t convey a connection to what you do. There are many well-known companies with arbitrary names, such as Zappos, Google, and Apple. Yes, their names are unique and differentiated. But it’s important to note that it took these companies a substantial amount of time and even more amounts of money for them to become household brands. So, it might be best for mission-driven organizations to avoid arbitrary words and go for words that are more connected and meaningful to their cause.


Do Choose Words That Are Easy to Spell

Choose a name that is short, simple, and easy to spell. This approach will make your organization’s name a lot easier for people to remember and recognize. In addition, Phil Davis shares that names that are too hard to spell and pronounce can cause people to simply ignore your organization and think it’s irrelevant because it sounds or seems overly obscure.


Do Confirm the Approval Process in Advance

Whether you’re using an expert like Spencer Brenneman or doing it yourself, you might have a name that has gained positive feedback from your colleagues. So you need to plan on pitching it to your executive director, but he or she may hate it and ask you to start from scratch. To avoid this waste of time, make sure that everyone understands the naming process and their roles.


Don’t Fudge the URL

It’s often tempting to create a name without a readily available URL and get one similar instead. For example, if is already taken, why not take Simple: It’s nearly impossible to get people to use the hyphens, which means they will have trouble finding you. Luckily, If What We Do is the best choice, there is now a plethora of new extensions available, such as WhatWeDo.Help. (See for a complete list.)


Do Conduct a Trademark Search

Trademarks can be costly, but they offer a lot of legal and branding benefits. Engage a trademark attorney to conduct a trademark search. It is money well spent. If you need a referral, let us know.

When naming your organization, your goal is to settle on one that embodies your organization’s mission and that is also descriptive, memorable, and influential. And if you already have an existing organization, but want to change its name, make certain it’s for the right reasons. In “What’s in a Name (Brand)?” we discussed how it could be a smart move if it is aligned with your organization’s brand strategy.

Allie Cooper is a part-time marketing manager and a full-time mom to three energetic boys. When she’s not working or chasing after her kids, Audrey enjoys reading and writing.

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