Naming Opportunities – The Basics

Sections of this topic

    Every nonprofit must have its own set of policies that cover all areas of service and operation; and, those policies must be written based on the circumstances and needs of that organization.

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

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

    Organizations should also have in place policies specifying from whom the organization will/will not accept support; who you would (not) honor or memorialize; and, a statement as to how you’d decline gifts that include elements or restrictions that would conflict with your other policies.

    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.”

    “Namings” for support of operating expenses tend to be of the names-on-a-list or on-a-plaque variety. “Opportunities” 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.

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

    For bequests, since an NPO doesn’t receive the gift until the donor has died, namings must be discussed/negotiated with the donor while they’re still with us !!

    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);

      2. Through the process leading to naming you in his/her will, s/he develops
          that strong feeling for your organization (or one of it’s programs); and/or,

      3. Your organization can offer him/her the (kind of) naming opportunity
          that will satisfy his/her needs.

    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 or purchasing whatever is being named.
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