How to Name a Nonprofit
Step-by-step guide to coming up with a memorable name that embodies the mission of a nonprofit.
Start a list.
Write down any ideas you already have.
You may already have some ideas for a nonprofit name. If so, go ahead and write them down.
Highlight or star your favorites as you go.
This will make it easy to narrow down the list later, while letting you jot down ideas that may spark something later on.
The words you add to the list don’t have to be fully formed nonprofit names. They can be words or concepts related to the nonprofit business that help you get to the final name.
You don't have to get your nonprofit name right the first time. You can legally change your name as many times as you want, but to avoid confusion, it would serve you well to get it right at the beginning.
Perform essential research before you name your nonprofit.
Review your business plan.
If you’ve got a business plan for your nonprofit, the research there should give you ideas for words, phrases, and concepts that fit your brand.
Talk to a likely target audience.
This is something you’ll want to do, no matter what, to learn more about the people you’ll be catering to. While you’re meeting with them, be sure to write down words, phrases, and concepts that they associate with the nonprofit.
Review words specific to the nonprofit business.
Look at your mission statement.
Ask what it is your nonprofit does in one word. Educate? Empower? Protect? Heal? By thinking about the action word of your nonprofit, you can get a sense of its associations.
Organizations like "Teach for America" and "Feeding America" are named this way.
Nonprofit names should have a positive tone and connote action or inspiration. Your name should evoke a sense of positivism.
Think about who will benefit from your nonprofit.
Are you helping children, women, people with disabilities, the environment, or small businesses? Thinking about the people, sectors, or institutions that stand to gain from your nonprofit work will produce more associations and spark more ideas.
Organizations like "Save the Children" and the "World Wildlife Fund" are named this way.
Think about the people working for you.
What kind of professionals will your nonprofit attract? Is your organization fairly homogeneous or is it made up of individuals from diverse professional backgrounds? Are you doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, or a mix of all?
Organizations like "Doctors Without Borders" and "Bikers Against Drunk Drivers" are named this way.
Think about about powerful words.
Short, powerful words that stir or provoke make a lasting impression on people and resonate around the world. Brainstorm some short, powerful words related to your mission or the problem you are addressing.
Don't settle only for single words. The word "Feed" is powerful but it is more impactful if you name your nonprofit "Feed the Children."
Consider a creative acronym.
Come up with a short but powerful word and try to make it abbreviate your mission statement. For example, the nonprofit "CARE" stands for "Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere."
Brainstorm region-specific vocabulary.
Try city and state names and nicknames.
Cities and city nicknames can sometimes work well for a local nonprofit business. For example, "Maryland New Directions," "Missoula Urban Demonstration Project," "Big Apple Greeter," "Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission," "Hospice of West Alabama Inc.," and more.
Create more name ideas from your list.
Combine words from the list.
Try combining various words from your list to see if they form any interesting names.
Use a name generator.
NameSnack can help combine your ideas and make associations that you wouldn't have thought of.
NameSnack's AI will prompt you to add different words. You can try adding them all, or go with smaller groups.
Write down any nonprofit names you like.
NameSnack will also tell you if the domains are available. Check the ones that have domains off on your list.
Review similar nonprofits.
Chances are the problem your nonprofit is looking to address is being tackled by other nonprofits. These nonprofits might be in the same city, state, or country as you, or they might operate in other countries. Have a look at how they've named their organization and the elements they've incorporated.
While looking at similar nonprofits for inspiration, you also want to ensure that your name is distinctive. Focus on the ways in which other NPOs have named themselves. Try to stand out.
Review and reflect.
Read through your list again.
See if there are any others that stand out, and mark them.
Set the list aside for a day or two.
Come back with fresh eyes and see which names stand out. Also, see which names you still remember. This may give you a clue as to which ones are most memorable.
Get feedback on your top nonprofit names.
See what your target audience think of the names.
See how your target audience reacts to different names.
It's useful to go and speak to the people your're trying to help. If you're educating children, go and visit them at their schools to get a sense of their environment. If you're taking care of the homeless, visit a homeless shelter. Pitch your nonprofit name to them and study their feedback. Try targeting Facebook groups related to your nonprofit as well.
Test the names on friends and colleagues.
Read your names to friends and colleagues, and get their take on your nonprofit names. Come back a day or two later and see which ones they still remember.
See if the web domain name is available.
Use a site like Namecheap to see which of your top business name ideas have related URLs.
See if the name is already in use in your state.
If the business name is already in use for a similar business in your state, it's likely you won't be able to use it.
Check the names on Google.
Google your favorite nonprofit names to see if there are any other well-known nonprofits with the same name, or if there are some associations you hadn’t thought of.
Get the name.
Buy the domain name.
You can do this through sites like Namecheap.
Register the business name with the state.
You'll need to register the name in your state once you've chosen it. In most states this is fast and easy, and can be done online.
Consider trademarking the name.
This offers additional protection from other businesses using your nonprofit name.
Learn more about trademarking your business name.
How do you pick a nonprofit name?
- Brainstorm some potential names.
- Think about words and concepts related to your nonprofit, target audience, and mission statement.
- Try combining words or use a business name generator.
- Review and reflect on your list.
- Gain feedback.
- Check the name's availability.
- Secure the name.
Can two foundations have the same name?
No. Most states do not allow nonprofit organizations to have the same name. The naming regulations that apply to for-profit companies apply to nonprofits as well. Run your proposed name by your Secretary of State's website and be sure to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
How can I be sure my nonprofit name is good?
Check it with friends, family, and likely members of your target audience. Make sure it's easy to remember, and gives a sense of what makes your nonprofit special.
Where can I find ideas for my nonprofit's name?
Think about your service, location, and what makes your nonprofit special. Try running the vocabulary you come up with through a business name generator like Namesnack.
How can I see if my nonprofit's name is taken?
Check with your state business name lookup and search for the name and close variants online.