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Do Not Pass Go: 3 Must Haves for a Successful Naming Program

The phrase “naming opportunity” can give even the most seasoned development professional heart palpitations and cold sweats. The world of naming is pervasive, complex, riddled with risk and inefficiency, and can bring an organization to its knees when gone wrong.

Our news feeds are riddled with stories of organizations of all reputations, types, and sizes that encounter issues with administering naming gifts and living up to long-term donor expectations. Sometimes these issues are internally driven and are caused by a lack of infrastructure to administer these gifts, a communication misstep, or simply a staff or leadership change. Other times, the issues are driven by the donor themselves — reputations, communication, personality clashes, and more. Whatever the cause, this space is difficult to navigate on the best of days, let alone when something goes wrong.

When building and administering a comprehensive naming program, many best practices and organizational needs must be considered. But no matter the type of organization, the amount of money raised annually, or the magnitude of your naming opportunities, these three key items are non-negotiable requirements:

  1. A formalized and adopted naming policy! While it sounds simple, many organizations try to tackle naming opportunities only during the gift agreement process. But this creates inconsistency, internal administration issues, and a lack of leverage when change has to occur. A formal naming policy, including topics such as donor approval protocol, morality clauses, and standardized recognition and gift levels, is critical to your organization’s success in administering naming gifts and meeting donor expectations.. Do not pass go!

  2. Consistent internal definitions and terms. Also sounds simple, right? But the naming landscape covers many aspects of our work – and far beyond the “name on a wall” concept we default to! There are endless “things” to name and if there are not consistent definitions of what naming includes at your organization, gift levels, and the administrative responsibilities associated with each, it can easily feel like the wild wild west with all of our internal partners.

  3. A morality clause. Eek. A scary phrase, I know. But building an official “out clause” into our documents and processes is essential to our ability to protect our organizations from reputational, public relations, and donor trust issues. We never want to use it, but we need to have it just in case!

The DRG Group is very familiar with the challenges, but incredible opportunities, naming gifts can provide for organizations. We have personally managed these programs, helped multiple clients build infrastructure and naming inventories, created robust naming reporting models, and more. And now, we are now bringing this experience to you with a four-part webinar series dedicated solely to these topics.

Join us starting in January 2023 as we explore all aspects of naming, including WHAT to name, HOW to build a naming program, WHERE physical signage comes in, WHO has what role in this space, and so much more. We will bring you best practices, many samples, and hopefully some peace of mind – you CAN do this, and it can be manageable, efficient, and effective!

What are your biggest challenges or questions around naming opportunities? Share them in the comments below!


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