Naming Opportunities and Bequests

Sections of this topic

    This posting is based on an email exchange asking about the relationship between bequests and Naming Opportunities (NOs). I have expanded on my responses in that exchange:

    With regrets, I do not have a set of generic naming policies that I can share. I would, however, be happy to suggest how you might structure such for your organization.

    First, you need to have policies in place to “regulate” what your organization will do with bequests, whether all or only certain (types or percentages of) bequests will go into endowment, capital needs and/or operating expenses.

    Then, you need policies for what you would be willing to name, and what you wouldn’t – and whether the naming would be permanent and/or if some/all would have terms of a specific number of years.

    Once the policies are in place, and there is a list of naming opportunities approved by the board, they shouldn’t need to be involved in approving each naming.

    Typically, the Development Committee of the Board, in conjunction with the Chief Development Officer, make the decisions as to who will be offered which “opportunity” … at what “price.”

    One caveat, the organization should also have in place policies specifying from whom the organization will/will not accept support.

    Naming Opportunities (using the term broadly) for support of operating expenses tend to be of the names-on-a-list or on-a-plaque variety. NOs for endowment, depending on the size of the gift, can be names-on-a-list, names-on-a-plaque, or the naming of a (part of a) program that the gift endows.

    NOs for capital projects range from names-on-a-plaque to names on equipment to names on (parts of) buildings.

    NOs based on bequests, since an NPO doesn’t receive the gift until the donor is no longer with us, must be discussed/negotiated with the donor before they die !!

    Those discussions/negotiations tend to be very business-like, and focus on what’s important to the donor. After all, s/he is not going to name you in his/her will unless:
    1. S/he already feels strongly about your organization (or one of it’s programs) and/or;
    2. Through the process leading to naming you in his/her will, develops that strong feeling for your organization (or one of it’s programs).

    If you’re going to “sell” a naming, just be sure that the price is commensurate with the value of the “opportunity.” Remember, the “price” of a “naming” is based on the market value of that naming – a price that has little-or-no relation to the cost of creating/building/purchasing whatever is being named.

    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at
    Have you seen The Fundraising Series of ebooks ??
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