So, What’s In a Name?
Plenty — especially when it comes to naming your legacy society.
Choose the wrong name, and you’ll struggle to attract (let alone keep) members. Choose the right name, and your membership will grow and thrive. So will your major and planned gifts. Just make sure you devote a special section to it on your planned giving website. If possible, get permission from your society members to have their names listed online as well. This really adds a special touch and makes donors feel … well, special.
Think we’re overstating things? Think again — and then think about how big brands name their products. Here’s a hint: They don’t just pick the first one that comes along (unless it’s pretty amazing). Ours was easy: we own the industry domain name: plannedgiving.com.
Stellar Examples of Brand Names
Chevrolet Corvette is legendary — and the name comes from a fast, quick handling warship. Within Corvette is another legendary name: the Stingray. This performance-minded ‘Vette model shares its name with a sleek, fast, and dangerous marine animal.
Samsonite, known for its durable suitcases, was once The Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company. But its owner decided to adapt the name of the biblical character Samson, famous for his God-given strength, to better represent his product. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nike, the Sports conglomerate, takes its moniker from the Winged Goddess of Victory. The name was originally given to a line of soccer shoes, made by a company called Blue Ribbon Sports. The name was so great that Blue Ribbon officially renamed itself Nike in 1978.
Google — literally a household name in the 21st Century — is taken from a misspelling of the word googol. A googol is a mind-bendingly large number, and sums up the purpose of the company: Organize the mind-bendingly massive amount of information that’s available on the Web.
All five examples come from successful brands, and were the result of thinking intentionally about what the name of the brand or product needed to represent.
Five tips that will help
- Pay close attention to the story behind your name. Need inspiration? Middlebury College’s Cane Society is a great example. It’s named for founder Gamaliel Painter’s walking stick, which he bequeathed (along with a sizable bequest that saved the school) to the college.
- What image do you want associated with your society? If you’re a nonprofit devoted to preserving nature, perhaps you’d name the society after a bird that was saved from extinction … like the Environmental Defense Fund’s Osprey Society.
- Know your target audience and what they’d relate to best (not always that obvious). Is tradition important to them? Does your nonprofit help support a historical landmark or storied school? Perhaps you should take a cue from the 1808 Legacy Society of Mount St. Mary’s University. Guess what year the college was founded?
- How do you want to portray the legacy society? Maybe it could be named after a phrase that sums up your organization’s goals or teachings, like Montclair State University’s Carpe Diem Society.
- What do donors resonate with most about your mission? What’s the most recognizable element of what you do? A legacy society for a group dedicated to preserving historic buildings might be called The Restoration Society; a nonprofit that supports a historic landmark might have a legacy group called The Revolutionary Society or The Friends of Daniel Boone.
The name of your legacy society is important and deserves careful attention. Don’t pick the first name pulled out of a hat, or — perhaps worse — use a generic name like “Legacy Society.” It should be easily identifiable to those who know your mission; should invoke an image or saying associated with your group; and be something your target audience can relate to.
In short, it should sum up your organization’s “brand” — and if you don’t think you need (or have) a brand, that’s a whole new topic.