A report by charity research consultancy nfpSynergy says charities should think twice before changing their names but concedes sometimes it has to be done. Here are seven reasons why they say you should consider changing yours
1. Your name is too easily confused with another
This is one of the most common reasons for a name change and it is particularly the less well-known charities that may acutely feel the impact of similar names. Before their name change to Action on Hearing Loss, this was the problem that affected RNID, which was very similar to charities such as RNIB and RNLI. It could be argued that there is a similar situation with Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, where the combination of Bs and Cs defeats distinction by most members of the public. This is compounded by the three’s love of pink, although the latter two are merging this spring.
2. Your name is too generic
While there are few charities that deliberately choose a generic name, there are a number that have ended up with one. Typically, this comes about because of a desire to escape the wrong name. Scope and Crisis are two examples of too generic a name, though neither United Response nor International Rescue Committee could claim to be examples at the peak of creativity.
3. Abbreviation’s aren’t all that good
There are some names which lead not to instant oblivion, but instant abbreviation. The result is that a carefully thought-through name is made instantly redundant. Try remembering what PDSA, BTCV and NCDL actually stand for. Not all abbreviations are bad though – Oxfam and Unicef are now words in their own right.
4. Your name is no longer acceptable
There are some names which, for a variety of reasons, become unacceptable. It’s not surprising that The Spastics Society wanted to change its name, nor Our Dumb Friends League or the Distressed Gentlefolk’s Aid Association. Time or social norms have overtaken a number of names.
5. Your name is no longer relevant
The less dramatic version of reason four is that a name becomes redundant as language or society changes. When the League Against Cruel Sports was founded in the 1920s, the word league was in common use, but no longer. The same goes for words like society, national, federation, and quite possibly in the near future, UK, which could become part of our history.
6. Your name doesn’t do you justice
Let’s assume that all charities do great work. Does the name (and the wider brand) do that great work justice? Do people get the kind of work that a charity does because of the name? Or are they distracted or confused by it? Perhaps the single most important objective of any name or brand is that they do justice to, that they adequately wave the flag for, all the work of staff and volunteers and all those changed lives of beneficiaries.
7. You’ve just had a merger
It’s slightly outside the scope of this section as a reason for a name change, but any two charities merging will need to think about one. Sometimes the dominant brand wins out, sometimes a whole new name is created (remember when Age Concern and Help the Aged merged into Age UK) and sometimes the two names are just bolted together like a crude piece of welding. Even if it is the merger (rather than the brand) that drives the change, all the issues of how to find the right name and the challenges of the process remain.