Why changing your nonprofit name could hurt — a lot

Thinking about changing your organization’s name? Think again. Research reported at Inc.com says a name change is often harmful to the organization that does it: Brain Science Explains Why Customers Don’t Like It When Companies Change Their Names.

In my experience, nonprofit name-changes have nearly always been bad — at least in the short term, and sometimes in the short and long terms. (Read more about this at How a brand change will impact revenue: Real-life figures.)

Here’s part of the problem with name changes, according the to report at Inc:

… “cognitive load” — the amount of work our brains have to do every day, even with no name changes from familiar brands. Our brains are constantly looking for ways to cut down on the load, and one way we do that is to ignore information that seems to conflict with what we already know.

That is, we can’t help but avoid the small but annoying challenge a name change throws at us. That alone might explain why giving tends to drop after a name change.

But it’s even worse:

… when our brains are forced to adapt to a new name… we tend to resent the company that made us do it.

So a name change not only causes people to pay less attention, but it converts some of that attention to resentment? Who needs that?

There are times when a name change might be necessary.

But don’t do it lightly. It’s difficult to get it right, and it could do a lot of damage!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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