“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Yes it would Shakespeare, but would it tell anyone what it is, eh?

We work with charities to ensure they have an authentic and clear brand. Often the discussion about name comes up. And often I try to dissuade them from even thinking about changing it! There are definite cons to updating the name of your organisation, but sometimes it is necessary and worthwhile.

When to change your name
There are two main reasons:

REASON ONE – It’s been shortened to an acronym which doesn’t mean anything

People like to shorten names. Often, over time, organisations start to be know as an acronym. A set of initials which are only useful if you know who the organisation is. It can work well as they’re short and snappy. Think about NSPCC or RNLI. But it takes a long time and, often, a lot of money to make a set of initials mean something to your audience. More often it makes the name meaningless to those who are new to it.

What can you do about it?

Well you can either embrace it and use a good strapline and clear ‘who we are’ message to give the name meaning. Or you can change it.

This was the situation the charity CLIMB found itself in a few years ago. Their name was Children Living with Inherited MetaBolic disorders. Quite a mouthful but it did describe who they were. This became CLIMB over time which spelled a word that didn’t have any meaning to their cause. It was well known but because of advances in medical research they weren’t just helping children any more, and many of their beneficiaries could now live well beyond childhood. After a lot of audience research and going through a thorough process with us they decided to change their name to Metabolic Support UK  introduce a strapline – Your rare condition. Our common fight. – and refresh their brand look and feel.

REASON TWO – What you do has changed and the name is actually mis-representing you

This might be a geographical change, it could be the people you support or the services you provide. Several charities have found this to be the case during the recent covid pandemic, where they have had to ‘pivot’ their services because of the change in needs. Or the world around you has changed, language has moved on or developments made in the area you work and the name is now outdated or misleading.

Often the only remedy to this is a name change. Sometimes you can keep elements of the name, or retain the same branding but if you’re changing your name because your charity has changed what they deliver, then a visual rebrand can be a good way to communicate this change clearly.

Cheshire Centre for Independent Living realised this in 2019 when they came to us after identifying that a lot of their work was being delivered outside of Cheshire and that the term ‘Independent Living’ was being more commonly used to describe supported housing facilities, which wasn’t what they offered. This charity really took the opportunity with their change of name to choose something that was a description of their attitude and the change they want to see in the world too. We were so proud to help them rebrand as Disability Positive. 

When you shouldn’t change your name
How much awareness will you lose if you were to change? Who would you lose this awareness with – beneficiaries or donors? A change of name can be done successfully but it needs to be well planned and consistent, over potentially years.

We started to work with PANDAS Foundation last year and even got as far as having a new name and brand designed. Then they were featured in a storyline in Eastenders and calls to their helpline went through the roof as awareness in their charity leapt overnight. We had to re-evaluate and make the decision to retain the name, but turn it into a new acronym which could be used in full as the strapline under the new logo. It would have been crazy to change their name at that point, especially as a lot of the awareness was with a brand new audience. Now they’re PANDAS – PND Awareness and Support.

What to think about when changing your name

  • It’s not easy and it’s not cheap
  • A lot of names are already in use. And the website address you want will have gone. And the facebook name, twitter handle and instagram one too. You need to be prepared to compromise between the name you want and the one you can own.
  • You’ll find things with your name on that need updating all over the place! Allow a budget for replacing everything from letterheads and signage to leaflets and clothing. Also remember to talk to your bank. You need to ensure when people send you cheques in your old name (and they will) you can still cash them.
  • You need a plan to tell all your audiences you’re going to change it. You need to tell them you have changed it several times. And then you need to keep telling them that it’s been changed until they remember!

However, if it’s the right thing for your organisation to do then it’s definitely worthwhile. People will be able to understand more easily what you do, and the people you can help will know you’re there for them. Supporters will be able to identify you and will find it easier to explain who you are to their friends and family. It’s much easier for you to communicate that you’re a different organisation on the inside if that change is reflected on the outside.

Changing your name is often short term pain for long term gain.

If you have any questions about changing your name do let us know. We’d be very happy to talk it through with you.

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Jo Grubb
Managing Director, JG Creative