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Think carefully before changing your name, says free guide to rebranding

22 May 2015 News

Charities considering changing their name must first find out exactly what their staff, beneficiaries and supporters think of the change before proceeding, according to a free guide published today.

Charities considering changing their name must first find out exactly what their staff, beneficiaries and supporters think of the change before proceeding, according to a free guide published today.

In a report entitled What’s in a name? consultancy nfpSynergy claims that any charity considering the possibility of changing its name must “do the groundwork” when it comes to researching the effect of a rebrand on its key audiences or risk alienating them.

“We cannot stress enough that if you want a successful name change, it’s critical to understand what your key audiences think about it,” the report says.

“We have lost count of the number of times charities have told us that they know exactly what people think about a name change. Yet when we dig a little deeper, the research is almost always partial, out of date, about a different issue or only done on selective audiences.”

The report also suggests that the process shouldn’t be rushed – nfpSynergy tells charities to allow at least two years in which to fully implement a name change.

“We would say that it takes six months to do the groundwork on whether a name change is the right decision, another six to decide whether the right name can be found and a final six to twelve months to implement the decision,” the report says.

The research agency also suggest that an organisation’s trustees are less likely to be willing to balance the “short-term loss of awareness” that comes from a name change with the “potential long-term gains”. This is because trustees tend to be “overly attached to the history of an organisation”, compared to those who work on the charity’s front line.

Joe Saxton, founder of nfpSynergy, said that a name change represented a great risk for charities but if done properly, can be a huge boost for an organisation.

“A name change is a huge decision for a charity,” he said. “Getting it right can secure the long term future of a charity and generate a boost in awareness, reputation and ultimately income. Getting it wrong can be an expensive disaster and too often the decision is made without the proper care or research.

“It is not a decision to be taken lightly, but as attitudes in society change and competition in the sector grows, it’s one that will face a range of charities and they must be ready to deal with it effectively.”

Examples of good and bad charity names

The report also provides some examples of the best charity names at the moment. Some of those mentioned include: WaterAid ("short, memorable, internet-friendly"), Save the Children ("inviting with an action-verb to boot") and Oxfam ("now a name in itself"). 

The "all-time, worst charity name" is given to the charity formerly known as the National Canine Defence League. "Thankfully NCDL has now become the greatly improved Dogs Trust".