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Charity renaming – what’s involved?

Posted by Emma Nicol | 20 June 2013

Categories: Branding Charity Rebranding

charity name change

At Door 22 Creative we work with a network of niche and relevant external expertise ensuring that our capability is full service without the full service price tag. One of these experts is Kelly O’Haire who has valuable inhouse charity communications experience. She looks at charity renaming and just how much unexpected stuff can be involved in this extremely subjective process…

There are thousands of brilliant charities in the UK – all doing amazing things for great causes. Most of them were established before the age of searchable relevance however, which means some have completely irrelevant names when it comes to a digital footprint.

Having worked within a smaller national charity, I know only too well the pressure on marketing budgets and how many trustees are way behind the curve when it comes to digital knowledge. In short, it can be a huge battle to get budgets increased – especially for something new and (in their eyes) as yet unproven.

So, if a charity has a digitally irrelevant name it faces a choice. Increase spend on digital marketing and profile building or go the whole hog and change the name completely.
Personally, I think if a charity is already having internal conversations about how to make itself more digitally relevant, keeping the name and upping the digital marketing activity is only really a stalling tactic. The name will eventually change anyway, so you may as well get on with it!

So what needs to happen for a name change? Let’s be clear, this is not a rebrand (although it will probably include this). This is something that will need legal involvement from start to finish and some extremely restrained objectivity.

With any name change, good legal checks are a must. You can’t just come up with an idea and do an internet search to check that no-one is using the URL. Even if your desired URL is free, you have no idea whether your chosen name belonged a death-metal band from Norway back in the 1970s. This process is called due diligence. Most good branding agencies will have the legal contacts to ensure that the proper searches can be made and should include it as part of any quote – as long as you specify it within your renaming brief.

Start by writing a detailed brief – outlining why the current name needs to change and what you’re looking from the new one, include some history about yourself, plus your budget and deadlines. You’ll then need to research agencies and run a credentials pitch process.

Once you’ve appointed an agency the fun really begins! They might go away and come back to you with lots of potential new names – which you can whittle down – or you may choose to work out the new name shortlist in a big brain storming session. You might even run a competition, depending on your supporters and stakeholders.

The name shortlist will need to be tested in specially selected focus groups. Only once the top three chosen names are established is it worth getting the due diligence done – the favourite may prove to be a non-starter.

The final chosen name will need to be approved by the trustees and ‘pre-launched’ to key stakeholders. It will be imperative to have them fully engaged and supporting the process, but do bear in mind, that however well organised, it will not run smoothly.

All through this process there will be arguments and upset – mostly from people who are emotionally attached to the old name or who simply don’t like change. Remember to always see the final goal – a shiny new, digitally relevant name awaits – hopefully delivering your fantastic charity work to many many more people.

How you decide to deliver your new name is up to you. There are many ways to present yourself and relaunch the organisation. You may have the budget for a whole new rebrand with a swanky party or it may need to be a bit less ostentatious – with key communications re-skinned and reworked. It’s an important stage in the organisational history so whatever path you take, respect the process. Whatever you do, consistency will be the key and exciting times will be ahead…

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