Rebrand in focus: the fine art of changing your nonprofit’s name
Does your organization’s name no longer represent who you are? In this webinar, Farra Trompeter, Big Duck’s Vice President, discusses how to assess if you should change your name, outline the steps in the process, and explore some of the issues that will be critical to doing it successfully. Join Farra and her nonprofit co-presenters, Nick Guroff, Deputy Director of Communications, Foundation Relations from Corporate Accountability, Deborah Waxman, President, and John Peskin, Vice President for Strategic Advancement, both from Reconstructing Judaism, as they share their experiences and advice from the name change process.
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Farra Trompeter: Alright. Welcome to today’s webinar everyone. My name is Farra Trompeter. I’m Vice President of Big Duck. You will see what I look like shortly. We’re gonna give it about a minute or two for folks to log in but we’ll start in one minute so just give us a moment …
Farra Trompeter: Alright. We are gonna get started and dive in today’s very hot topic of The Rebrand in Focus: The Fine Art of Changing Your Nonprofit’s Name. Welcome everyone. Whether this is your first webinar with Big Duck or your 20 millionth, thank you for joining us. In case you are new to the world of Big Duck we develop the voices of determined nonprofits by developing strong brands, strong campaigns and teams. We specialize in working with nonprofits experiencing significant growth and change. I personally have had the pleasure of working very closely with the fine folks that will be joining us today, Nick, Debra, and Josh. You’ll meet them all in a moment.
Farra Trompeter: We really believe at Big Duck that this intersection and this coming together of strong brands, strong campaigns, and strong teams, help you use your brands, your communications to really achieve your mission. One of the things in the 11 years that I have been at Big Duck, and Big Duck as an organization is nearing its 25th, but in the 11 years that I have been here I would say that changing your name is probably the hardest projects to take on. I’m really excited that we’re gonna be doing a discussion today diving down deep into that topic.
Farra Trompeter: For those of you who are on Twitter I invite you to connect with me there. I am just “farra” on Twitter. I am also often behind the Big Duck account which is “BigDuck”, cleverly enough. If you wanna tweet today’s takeaways from today’s conversations or have questions you wanna post on Twitter feel free to use the hashtag #brandraising, which I’ll tell you a little bit more about. That’s Big Duck’s approach to branding.
Farra Trompeter: If you’d like to learn more about me you can sort of click away on our website but just briefly, as I mentioned before, I am Vice President here. I have been at Big Duck for 11 years. In my role I play … I wear a variety of hats as they say. I help lead our new business efforts and work with potential clients. I do a lot of our training and education and outreach. I do sometimes have the rare opportunity of working directly with clients on our strategy team. Again, pleasure and happy to be joined by today with Nick from Corporate Accountability and Deborah Waxman and Josh Peskin from Reconstructing Judaism. Let me have them introduce themselves directly. So Nick.
Nick Guroff: Hi everyone. I’m delighted to be here as well today and share our experience with rebranding as it may be helpful to you. Again, I’m Nick Guroff. I’m the Deputy Director for both Communications and Foundation Relations at Boston based Corporate Accountability. As Farra mentioned, we just went live with a new brand, spoiler alert, our organizational identity as we call it last fall after a very fruitful partnership with Big Duck. So looking forward to sharing more about that.
Farra Trompeter: Deborah, I’d love for you to introduce yourselves.
Deborah Waxman: Hi. I’m Rabbi Deborah Waxman and I’m the President of the organization now known as Reconstructionist, nope, Reconstructing Judaism. You’ll hear more about how we came into that name. It’s still new and we’re growing into it. I’m a Rabbi. I’m an historian. I’m a Jewish communal leader. All of those parts of me were really enlivened by this process that we went through in partnership with Big Duck.
Farra Trompeter: Great. Thank you Deborah. I know there’s some background noise so I’m gonna ask my co-presenters, when you are not speaking if you can try and mute your lines and we will go from there. I’ve also gotten a question about will this webinar be available online to listen to later and the answer is yes. We are recording this presentation and we will be posting it on our website. Let me let our other half from Reconstructing Judaism, Josh Peskin, introduce himself.
Josh Peskin: Hi. My name’s Josh Peskin. I’m Vice President of Strategic Advancement at Reconstructing Judaism. I look forward to talking about our situation and how we ended up choosing and driving the whole process of rolling out our new name.
Farra Trompeter: Great. So what we’re gonna cover in this next hour, we will talk a little bit about the process of renaming nonprofits. I’ll share a little bit with you again about Big Duck’s approach to branding, and talk through options for changing your name. We will hear directly from Nick at Corporate Accountability and then Deborah and Josh at Reconstructing Judaism to really understand their process, what both drove their name change, the process they went through, and what the roll out looked like. They’re both relatively new. Then we’re gonna give you some tips that you can apply to your situation. Then we’ll leave some time for questions and answers, to deliver those answers to your questions. If you have questions while we’re going, feel free to chat them in. We’ll try and address them directly or, again, at the end of today’s conversation.
Farra Trompeter: So, let’s talk about renaming nonprofits. Well before we, you know, we can look at a name in and of itself but your name is just one aspect of your brand identity. It’s helpful I think to first thing about what is a brand. I think a lot of different, when I ask that question usually in trainings, “What is a brand?” I get lots of different answers. Often, ones that focus on things like, “It’s your logo. It’s your elevator pitch. It’s your reputation.” There’s lots of definitions and ideas that come to mind for brand.
Farra Trompeter: One way we really have been thinking about branding and a brand in general at Big Duck is that a brand is your voice, right? It’s how the people that you’re interacting with, what they hear, what they see, what they think, what they feel. It comes together as an impression that they get from all the different ways of interacting with you. Your name of course is just one aspect of that and it helps identify you. We’ll talk about the job of your name in a moment. Really, the brand that really comes together in that experience but part of the beginning of that is your brand identity and even above that is your strategy.
Farra Trompeter: Of course, before we dive into branding I think it’s helpful to say instead of just thinking about a name or a logo in and of itself, we need to first start by being clear as to why should an organization be using its communications. As I mentioned earlier, we really believe that communications are best used in service of an organization’s mission, right? We don’t wanna do branding for the sake of it or communications for the sake of it. We wanna make sure we are communicating to help an organization accomplish its mission.
Farra Trompeter: When you think about your mission and what you’re trying to do, likely, some of what you’re hoping communications will do for your organization is help you get people participating in your programs or recruit them, help change hearts and minds, which is how we think about advocacy, and help you really connect with potential and existing donors and generate financial support. Now there are other things that we might think about but generally these are the three buckets we tend to put the goals of communications under and your brand often falls right in the middle.
Farra Trompeter: Now of course, an aspect of your brand like your name can’t by itself bring lots of dollars in or, well, there are some naming opportunities that does come up for but generally speaking is one element. When we think about your brand, a few years ago Big Duck wrote a book called Brandraising that the heart of it is this model. Which is again, as most people think about things like a logo or colors or typography, all of that exists at what we consider the identity level. We need to first be really clear is to who an organization is and what it’s trying to do. What we often say and I’m excited about for both the case studies we’ll be looking at in a moment, is that the best time to think about branding is once you’ve done strategic planning. We need to first be clear as to where an organization is going, why it exists, what it’s trying to do, and from there get into really who needs to connect with the organization and develop the brand strategy of positioning and personality.
Farra Trompeter: We talk a lot about positioning and personality across Big Duck’s blog, our podcast, many other webinars, so I will just briefly say positioning is really that big idea we want people to have in their minds about us and personality is how we make them feel, what we want them to feel about us. We use those concepts together and we’ll hear what they were and how they drove the process for our two case studies to then shape things like your name, your logo, your elevator pitch, and ultimately come together in the day to day experience of your organization across communications channels.
Farra Trompeter: Let’s dive into names. When we think about a nonprofit name there are two things that a nonprofit name has to do for you. First and foremost, it has to identify who you are. We need to know what to call you. The second thing is that it can’t be misleading or inaccurate. We don’t want your name to communicate something that you’re not and that is often one of the main reasons why organizations look at changing their name. For example, the most obvious is when an organization has a specific geographic region or population named. Let’s say it’s the Center for Youth. All of a sudden your organization in their strategic planning process and their programs look at adding a whole bunch of services for seniors. If that’s now 50% of their work, saying they are the Center for Youth might be confusing. So it’s important to really make sure that your name helps identify you and is clear and accurate in what you do.
Farra Trompeter: We hope that your name also distinguishes you and is easy to remember, helps reinforce that brand strategy of positioning and personality, and we need to remember that the name, there are aspects of the name that could be answered or complemented by your tagline and logo. All of those things come together to be your initial identity that then gets built out from.
Farra Trompeter: There are lots of different types of names. This is just one way of grouping them. I’ve seen many other groupings and examples. I just wanna talk through, sometimes and at the beginning of a naming process it can be helpful to just remind everybody the kind of name you have and even open up a conversation as to are we open to all of these kinds of names or do we wanna particularly focus our exploration on one kind over another.
Farra Trompeter: So an example of a descriptive name, many nonprofit names fall under a descriptive name. Their name says who they are and what they do. That can be really helpful. In fact, when we’ve done our research for brand awareness through the Benchmark we have found that descriptive names because it sounds like something I should know, generally more people think and are aware of that organization. So a descriptive name, in this case the Atlanta Community Food Bank is an organization we’ve worked with on other aspects of their brand, not their name. The name stayed the same. We know they’re a food bank and we know they work in Atlanta, pretty clear.
Farra Trompeter: Another example is a metaphorical name where it really sort of has an idea driving at the heart of it. In this case, Wayfinder Family Services. It’s talking about the idea of being a wayfinder, helping people navigate through a series of different services that really meet their needs.
Farra Trompeter: Composite, you’ve seen these often. More in the for profit world. I would say both the composite and perhaps the evocative live more in the for profit world but we see them sometimes in nonprofits. Composite is, again, this idea of two words coming together. Origin based is also very popular. In this case, Guttmacher Institute. They’ve had a few different name changes. In 1968 The Center for Family Planning Program Development was created as a division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A few years later in 1974 they were renamed to the Allen Guttmacher Institute or the I’m sorry, after Alan Frank Guttmacher had passed away and it was in honor of him and in memory of him. Then many years later in 2005 they evolved it to just the Guttmacher Institute. But again, it comes from somebody who was a former President of Planned Parenthood and was very involved in the organization’s early days. So sometimes you see a name or a Susan G. Komen, right? Organizations that have literally someone’s name or a hint to something that speaks to their beginnings.
Farra Trompeter: Evocative, you might argue Big Duck is an evocative kind of name. It sort of doesn’t say what an organization does but it makes you ask or maybe brings a certain emotion to mind. The next kind, language, Sharsheret is an organization that works in the Jewish community. The word sharsheret is Hebrew for chain. This is an organization that really is about building a community of support among young Jewish women and their families so you can see where that might make sense to communicate that. Then finally, an action oriented name, which is just really giving the call to do something. Fight Colorectal Cancer, I know it’s about colorectal cancer and I can maybe get a hint that they’re an advocacy organization with that recommendation to fight.
Farra Trompeter: So those are different kinds of names. You may have seen others but I think it can be helpful to think about them and think about where your organization is. It’s also possible your organization maybe hits two categories. Again, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It just helps to classify. Beyond that, we can think about if you’re thinking about changing your name of course one possibility is not to change it. You might go through a process and at the end of the day land back on keeping the name the same or you may decide you wanna go on a process and do a complete revolution. Find a name that is totally different, has no words in common, feels very different than who you were, and is part of a bigger reintroduction of your organization. Many organizations kind of fall somewhat in the middle and do an evolution. In the case studies we’ll see today, kind of are more between that no change and evolution, working off what they currently have as opposed to a full revolution. Before we see those I just wanna show you what I mean by these possibilities.
Farra Trompeter: These are all organizations Big Duck has had the pleasure of working with over the past few years. One example here is HIAS. HIAS is an organization that was 135 years old. We started working with them. It was clear that what all the letters stood for, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was no longer true. It was words they didn’t use. They were working with refugees, not immigrants. It was inaccurate. However, there was a lot of equity in that acronym and it felt like it would work to simply to just HIAS but really use a very different tagline that helped explain who they were. So that’s a very small change that sometimes can make a big different.
Farra Trompeter: An example of an evolution, I mentioned Fight Colorectal Cancer before as an action oriented type of name. They used to be the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. You can see in this example of a name change we’ve changed one word but we’ve also changed the rest of the visual identity. They also have a tagline, “get behind the cure.” It was a big switch. So while the name change was an evolution you can see how the identity really kind of moved along.
Farra Trompeter: In the case of Families of SMA and Cure SMA, again, and looking at the words and even the visual, the color palette stayed the same. It was an evolution of their identity but they were an organization that was working with a rare disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, that wanted from their strategic plan to move beyond just working with the families but working with the neighbors, the friends, the supporters, and really broadening their mission and their reach. So going to a more action oriented name in this case made sense. Cure SMA was also the URL they were already using so it was an idea that was already associated with them.
Farra Trompeter: In terms of revolution, these are, I’m gonna show you two examples of bigger changes. The Association of Small Foundations, this was an organization where they were using the kind of organizations they were working with. Very descriptive, right? Kind of name and went to something more metaphoric in a way or even evocative, right? Exponent Philanthropy, To the Power of Small. So really playing on the power those small foundations can have.
Farra Trompeter: Then finally, our last example of revolution is one of the most recent organizations we’ve worked with is Junior Blind of America went to Wayfinder Family Services. They in their work, again, have moved beyond working just with children who are visually impaired and were doing work that was much more significant, and personal, and customized, and moving into this new name and direction, again, made sense to be more representative of who they were.
Farra Trompeter: My hope is just setting that up is just to sort of perhaps broaden what you think about when it comes to name change, both the kinds of names and options there may be. When we go through a name change process it’s really important, it is not easy. It’s important to think about who do you need to bring in when? What time and other resources do you have to invest? Doing a big name change can have some real hard costs with it if you’ve got lots of signage or office space or materials that are out there. It can, you know, again, it can be, there can be costs to communicate that new name change. You have to think about what is your, where do you want to play with what you have versus the idea of reintroducing your organization, especially if it’s completely brand new. And think about, again, it’s not just your name. What are the implications to the rest of your messaging, your tagline, you logo, et cetera. So again, these are some big picture things.
Farra Trompeter: What I wanna do now is stop talking and let you hear from some people who have actually gone through the process themselves. So we’re gonna turn it over first to Nick and I will be clicking for him and hopefully keeping up in time with what he has to say.
Nick Guroff: Great. Thanks, Farra. So I hope I can illustrate some of what that journey looks like. I’ll start with this slide which tells you about our name change immediately prior to our current name change, which was a revolution. So our organization was founded as Infant Formula Action in 1977. Its purpose was to rise to a growing challenge, which was influence of corporations over government and the growing abuse that came with consolidation of industries. So the first mandate for the organization was to correct an abuse with respect to Nestle’s infant formula marketing which was, as Bill Moyers documented at the time, contributing to widespread infanticide across the global south.
Nick Guroff: So INFACT, Infant Formula Action, as we evolved and took on additional issues it became simply Infact. So divorced from its original meaning but evocative, or at least that was the idea at the time. When we turned 30 we were long since divorced from our original mandate of focusing on infant formula and its marketing and taking on multiple issues and really looking to more clearly express who we were as an organization. Also, we were a small organization and we were looking to present ourselves more professionally because we did work that wasn’t just grassroots in nature but also very high touch within the halls of the United Nations and beyond. It felt like we needed a visual identity that better communicated that as well and helped bring in resources to the organization.
Nick Guroff: So you can see we had a revolution and became Corporate Accountability International, an almost corporate mark you could say. That helped us over the last 10 years grow in a fairly significant way. It was about five or six years ago that there were first murmurings of our mark isn’t doing all the things we need it to do. We were reaching sort of a plateau in terms of the number of people we could invite to the organization, our overall recognition, and the power we could build as an advocacy organization. So, next slide here Farra.
Nick Guroff: We, as part of our strategic plan we felt that it was extremely important to, in terms of growing the mandate of the organization, bring in resources, attracting new members to the macro organization, generating more media and the things that were important to our running effective advocacy campaigns to correct corporate abuse. We found it essential to wage an organization identity campaign that measurably increases recognition of, affinity for, and affiliation with Corporate Accountability International at the time. So you think about a letter of engagement recognition of, affinity for, and affiliation were our quick way of getting at the sentiment of we need more people at every stage of being aware of our organization and being involved with us.
Nick Guroff: So in terms of what it looks like to take up the process, right, how do you get from that recognition and that goal and your five year or even shorter timeframes to an end point? We looked at who we were as an organization and that began by doing a brandraising intensive with Big Duck and really asking some hard questions of who we were and what was the character of the organization. A critical thing we found was as a membership organization working on issues of democracy, having an open process that invited input from everything from our base, to our staff, and board, and some of our closest partners in various significant ways was very meaningful for us. You can imagine how that can get unwieldy. We consulted a great deal with Big Duck to think well how can we meaningfully get input without extending the timeline or the process or making it totally unwieldy. And endeavored to do a set of things that you can see throughout the process. They gave us some really good input and really gave our community ownership of the direction we were taking in and our landing spot.
Nick Guroff: So in achieving our endpoints, one of the things we took up in that brandraising intensive, that first moment with Big Duck in their New York office, to think about who we were and what we were actually working towards specifically with the process of renaming, we think with these three basic communications goals that further distill our focus. The first was to raise money. We needed more money to wage bigger and stronger campaigns to correct the types of abuses we are looking to correct in the world. Inspire action, we’re a membership organization. Our power comes from building grassroots power both nationally and internationally. Then building ambassadors was a new concept for us, relatively. Thinking about how we could better tap the passions and support and further evangelical desires of our base who have, in many cases, been with us for as much as 40 years and really giving them the tools and the license to go to their networks and speak more proactively about Corporate Accountability International, invite people to become more involved with us so that we didn’t fall into a trap that many organization do with similar mandates where they’re almost entirely staff driven and so your growth and the impact you can have in the world is limited.
Nick Guroff: So when it comes to the next step in the process, if you can think back to the brandraising pyramid there I shared with you, it was very important for us to think about audiences. Just who did we in fact were we working to reach, was it most critical to reach in terms of affecting growth within the organization achieving these communications goals. We knew that you couldn’t focus on the general public, for instance. You had to get fairly narrow on thinking about who are the people who are most inclined to be with us who aren’t yet and who can have the most swap in terms of evolving the organization and helping it grow and have that greater impact.
Nick Guroff: So for us we, and looking at our goals again, looking at our five year goal as well in our five year plan, we looked at primary audiences and really it was, for us, philanthropic partners who give us the resources to do the work we do and people with progressive values who are ready to act with time and or money and perhaps at lower levels. Then there’s a set of secondary audiences that we wanted to bear in mind. Obviously the more boxes we could check in terms of audience reach the better but we really wanted to nail it with our primary audience in terms of name change, visual identity change as well. And so some of those audiences we in particular considered were policy makers, prospective staff and board obviously because that’s the base on which we build the work we do, and the media and others who are sort of daring to stop corporate abuse more broadly.
Farra Trompeter: Nick, I just wanna chime in. This is great. We have about five or six more minutes for your section. Just wanted to let you know how we’re going with time.
Nick Guroff: Great. Alright so in going down the brandraising pyramid further, one of the things we did with Big Duck was assess just what is the character of our organization in particular, knowing that people relate to personalities and people within organizations more so than just as that tag, that sort of banner that is the name, logo, and tagline. We want that name, logo, and tagline to embody the character of who we are as staff and who we are as an organization. So this was a word cloud which helped us pin down what our personality was in fact. You can see fierce and genuine and smart were some of the character traits that then helped give us guideposts for determining what is a visual identity that worked for us as an organization.
Nick Guroff: As Farra mentioned, the sort of the essential guideposts in our thinking about renaming were our positioning as an organization, that distillation of what we do that gives us internal direction as an organization as to what do we need to communicate with our visual mark, with our name, with our tagline, and the limited verbiage that we use in explaining who we are as an organization. So in our case, that was Corporate Accountability International is leading a global movement of people daring to stop corporate abuse once and for all. As you saw from the last slide, our personality was a set of words that have a healthy tension with each other which, again, contributes to how unique we are as an organization. That we can, we both have a ferocity, a determination to do very scary work some would say, but also an optimism and smart and a very genuine approach to how we build power for a better democracy and a better world.
Nick Guroff: From the process there were a few major directives that came to light that were helpful in guiding sort of [inaudible 00:29:19] to what this could look like visually and in terms of putting words together and a new name. We wanted to consider stack up an evolution of our name with removing “International” against something that might be a more evocative and dynamic and short name. I think we all had in mind let’s really flip the script and see what that could give us and what that could look like and stack it up against something that would be a little bit more of just a continued evolution where we were going just to see how that would play with our base, with those audiences we talked about before.
Nick Guroff: We were certainly aiming to be shorter, simpler, more memorable. Our revolution name Corporate Accountability International was long and hard to hold for people. We also wanted to reflect the connective threads of our campaigns. We had a lot of different campaigns moving on human right to water, on tobacco control and so forth. What we really wanted to do is make sure that there was an umbrella for all the work we did that clearly communicated the relationship between the umbrella organization and the projects and campaigns we ran. Of course we’re looking to avoid names that confused, alienated, or that sounded too angry or timid. We were looking to strike a balance as the corporate watchdog. Ideally not an acronym. Corporate Accountability International was often shortened for CAI and then confused with CIA. That’s something we wanted to avoid. Also it could have been communicating and evocative about who were were or more descriptive.
Nick Guroff: So this is just a picture in our process. These were all of the names, I think, that we explored as an organization and we ranked our top choices. A challenging but very real part of the process was that so many of the names that we would have considered frankly right out of hand were not available. They’d be taken. There was already a copyright or trademark on these names. They simply weren’t available to us. There was a lot off the list before we began our work to determine what would be on the list.
Nick Guroff: These are some of the visual directions. So this is where we landed after giving ourselves all the guidance I just told you about. We decided to stack up. Upright was one of our finalist for names to sort of create a revolution for us in how we look, feel, and give us something short and dynamic to work with. We stacked that up against Corporate Accountability in a couple different iterations to see how that would feel.
Nick Guroff: The way we did that was through focus groups. So we went to our board, we went to our staff, and a limited number of partners and asked them a set of key questions that we worked on Big Duck to formulate. So which option made the best first impression? Which felt the most in character for us? What best communicated the positioning of the organization? And what best served the goal that we had in our five year plan? So based on those inputs … we evolved the name from Corporate Accountability International to Corporate Accountability, Join the Global Campaign.
Nick Guroff: I’ll say just a quick word on this. Some of the things we did here was we simplified an otherwise fairly generic mark. So it can mean a number of things, the vibrance of a sun or a megaphone. This still evokes a planet, so the global scope of our work. We removed the “International” into our tagline. We shortened the name. We also made the font just more approachable, lower case so it was more of an invitation for people to join and affiliate with this organization. Even the color pallette was warmer and more of an invitation, again, to join an organization that’s bread and butter is building membership in grassroots power to affect change.
Nick Guroff: So this gives you a little bit of a window into we launched this last fall. This is just one of our Facebook posts to release to the world the evolution of Corporate Accountability and a little bit of what this looked like in the world in terms of a new website, new social media presentation, and then certainly an overhaul of all of our materials. All at one time which was a bit stressful but went off rather well and was very well received by a base that had been very involved in the process of conceiving the name.
Farra Trompeter: And I think what I think that was interesting if you remember back to that process slide, we had started the work in February 2016. We got to a name, a visual identity, a tagline, messaging, that everyone felt good about in February 2017, about a year later because it was a very involved process. Then the brand didn’t go live beyond some additional ambassadors until October 2017 because we did what was called the flip the switch rollout where from that day forward, everything represented Corporate Accountability as a brand as opposed to having lingerings of the old brand. There is different kinds of rollout you can do. But it’s interesting, a lot of times people ask how long does a process like this take and it can depend on, of course, how many different moments you have to get feedback.
Farra Trompeter: We’re gonna see another example of lots of feedback and participation in a process. Thank you Nick. We’re gonna open it up to questions in a little bit. If you have questions for Nick feel free to chat them in and we will get to them shortly. So I think what’s interesting both with the example we just heard and we’re about to hear is that name change can happen more than once in an organization’s life cycle so I’m gonna turn it over to Deborah and Josh to talk about theirs.
Deborah Waxman: Hi. So we embraced a whole identity shift as the outcome of a merger. Reconstructing Judaism, our mission is that we cultivate and support Jewish living, learning, and leadership for a changing world. If you look on the slide you’ll see that we merged together our seminary, our leadership training institute, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and our congregational union, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, in 2012. So this we, those of you who are familiar with liberal religious life, we were part of a conventional denominational structure and with this merger we became a new organization, we kept the same functions, and we also become the central address for advancing a reconstructionist perspective in the wider world.
Deborah Waxman: In the merger talks, especially the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation folks really insisted on a new name. We on the RRC side, I was on that negotiating team, we were really open to a new name but we were quite insistent that we wanted to do it well, to do a process that would take time, that would have a lot of buy in, that would assess what we already had in the names that we had. So we used for a while a placeholder name just as we got moving forward because we had a lot of other things we had to attend to in the merger to make certain that we really realized the benefits of the merger and that we were all pulling together. We used this placeholder name of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.
Deborah Waxman: I’m really happy offline to talk to anybody about what is a reconstructionist perspective. It’s a progressive, and I think a very vital, a very creative way of being Jewish. It’s also a long name. You see that Reconstructionist has 14 letters, four syllables, and in this placeholder name we had it not once. It was six words in and of itself and we had reconstructionist not once but not twice. It worked or not for a good long while. By about the spring of 2015 … 2016 we came to realize that it really wasn’t working. It was getting in our way. It was as much an obstacle as it was a helpful … as it was an aid in helping us to achieve everything that we wanted to do. We had a strategic plan that came out of the merger. We had pretty expansive language about chartering a process to generate a clear identity for Reconstructionist Judaism. That meant, you know, that we knew we would get to this and we would try to figure out the best possible time.
Deborah Waxman: So as I said, by 2016 it seemed pretty clear that this was … the time was now. We raised the funds. We put out an RFP and decided ultimately to work with Big Duck. We had watched, we have a summer camp that was associated with the JRF name, the organization that no longer existed, and we were getting ready to open a second camp. We knew they needed to rebrand in advance of us. Ideally it would have been all together but they had a deadline. We were very pleased and impressed with the work that Big Duck had done with our camp and so we were really happy to enter into this process with them as well. I’ll hand it over to Josh now.
Josh Peskin: Yeah. Thank you. So this is our goals. I think it’s actually an appropriate place to start with the first time there, increased participation. In some ways participation and engagement really drove the whole way we thought about this. I flagged that at the outset because in preparing for this webinar it occurred to me that this is being called out on this page as one of our three goals for what we want the identity ultimately to do to people. But it also functioned in how we wanted to get the name and new identity generated in the first place. Then it also functioned in how we did the rollout.
Josh Peskin: So it’s a very appropriate place to start and I’d flag it because I think if you’re thinking about doing, embarking on this journey yourself, one item you’re gonna have to process is basically weighting getting buy in against the speed that you wanna move at. I think for us we opted to try to build buy in along the way even at the cost of speed but I think Big Duck did a great job of keeping us moving. You can see the other two goals here are increased recognition and raise money. Our philosophy I think just is through increased participation and engagement we get where we’re going so we get the increased recognition and we get, raise more money.
Josh Peskin: Our audiences, you can see here. I don’t need to read it to you. You can see that we sort of started drawing circles with the kind of key institutional audiences we wanted to work with, working with our really core people and then working outward. Perhaps the only surprise here is that donors and prospective students ended up in secondary audiences. I think this came out of, I think, just a deep wrestling and deep thought. I think everybody will have to figure out what their primary audience is, how to think through that.
Josh Peskin: So this Wordle, this one was actually developed in throughout this very sort of extended road tour process that we developed where we went out to more than a dozen congregations and conventions and events where we had our rabbis and our community leaders and students and faculty. We all did a lot of the exercise that we did the afternoon at Big Duck. Then we did a sort of cumulative Wordle here. We really, this was something we still look at and we still I think have created other uses for because it ended up being really powerful to have this based on so much input. You can see that our core is about welcoming, personality is about being welcoming, innovative, warm, diverse, inclusive. We felt like this particularly, the more people you ask, the more reliable the Wordle gets. We found this really interesting and really rewarding and I think heartening that this is basically what our team and Dumbo at Big Duck’s office put together but slightly nuanced with all the input.
Josh Peskin: Excuse me. The positioning statement we ended up with, and this we also added into the road tour so when we would go places we would basically work through some positioning exercises and some personality exercises to try to expand on what the core team did in Big Duck’s offices. They ended up changing both actually, both our positioning statement and our personality words ended up changing. Not radically but I would say substantively, particularly for the positioning statement in light of that feedback process. So you can see where we landed. We energize Jewish living and learning to transform our ever evolving selves, communities, and the world. Then our personality, groundbreaking, questioning, heimish which is Yiddish for homey, eclectic, and participatory. So we felt like this, we were pretty happy with where we landed here.
Josh Peskin: So the creative direction that we worked out with Big Duck, I wouldn’t even say we gave it to Big Duck. I think this was sort of a process of a back and forth where Big Duck is sort of pulling this out of us in this case. I think that that first bullet really hits a lot of the interesting stuff. If you just sort of scan through it and pull out some of these words like clear and simple, power, compelling, excitement, they just kind of hit a lot of the energy we were looking to convey with the sort of creative side of the new identity.
Josh Peskin: One thing that we realized fairly early on was that the word, some piece of the word Reconstructionism, whether that was reconstruct, reconstruction, reconstructing, Reconstructionism, it became pretty clear early on that some piece of that had to stay in our name in order for it to resonate. Then you can see that, actually if you go back real quick, so you could just see too there was definitely like our current … the then current identity was a little too formal or corporate. I think that’s what we were trying to pull out in that first bullet of excitement, compelling, power, powerful, et cetera.
Josh Peskin: So this is an interesting, I think, question that Big Duck clarified which is how do you want to say Jewish. I think for us, Big Duck had worked with all these organizations or most of these organizations and it had arisen I think time and again as a question. Do you want to have it in your name? Do you want to use Hebrew letters? Do you wanna have a Jewish symbol? Do you wanna use the color blue? Or do you wanna somehow state it overtly in your tagline? I think given the name we ended up with, we ended up saying it in our name and actually not so much needing or following all of the others. You can see Hebrew College hits every single one and I don’t think we felt the need to do that given the name change we ended up with.
Josh Peskin: So these are some of the options that we were looking at. You can see we kept the reconstruct and reconstructing sort of jumped to the fore even though we really did give it a real try to go or a real look, I should say, at going for a complete revolution. So we toyed with the idea of Mainspring for a little bit, which is the, I was told is the sort of main gear for a clock or spring for a clock. Folkways, Infinite, Today’s. I would say that process really kept leading us back to none of these were really fitting and the reconstructing really was kind of starting to jump out.
Josh Peskin: So this speaks to the process that I alluded to at the beginning. We ended up doing, like I said, more than a dozen town halls. We went to, all the way back and forth and up and down across the continent a few times. We did LA, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Pacific Northwest, Chicago. We were all over the place. It really gave an opportunity. We tried to use it as an opportunity to not just get input about a potential name, but to use it as an engaging conversation to A, remind people why they’re interested in the first place, and how they got involved in the first place, and what being part of their own congregation means to them, and what that congregation’s involvement with a larger movement means to the congregation.
Josh Peskin: It just opened up, I think, a lot of conversations. Some, I’ll be honest, some more powerful and some less powerful but it created an amazing opportunity to go and physically talk to more than 1000 people between the survey and these in person meetings to ask them about all these kind of questions. I think it really paid off in a lot of ways both on the front end and we’re now still in the process in the rollout phase on the back end. We’re still going back to everybody and saying, “Okay, here it is,” and talking about who we are and where we’re going.
Josh Peskin: So we did a survey that we sent far and wide just to give people who were not gonna have an opportunity to come to a town hall in person. You can see it asks the question about the word Reconstructionism. You can see we tried to get a sense of how well do you think, you know … I don’t need to go through the different questions but you can see this is us basically asking what your thoughts are. Some of it was qualitative. Some of it was quantitative. It ended up producing I think some really powerful results.
Josh Peskin: So another area where we went big on is the media relations component. We put together a media kit and a press release and we held a conference call press conference where we had nine reporters came on the call and then a couple more did interviews afterwards. We really, we did a lot of outreach for this. We did a lot of … talking to reporters and penning op-eds. I’m gonna turn this over to Deborah in a second ’cause we had I think the op-ed that Deborah did really took on a life of its own. I’ll let her tell that story. The media coverage we got was really pretty extraordinary.
Josh Peskin: We were able to kind of get different people in the media talking about it and referencing other stories. We really ended up getting I think a lot more than we expected there. The work on the front end really paid off. So if you’re thinking about doing this … I would take this part seriously because it’s a great way to have, to get advertising first of all but also to get out there in a credible way and in a way where the PR effect of that can be really, really powerful and I would say a lot of times overlooked. So Deborah do you wanna talk about the op-ed a bit?
Deborah Waxman: Sure. I think that one of the things that was most gratifying is that we worked very hard on telling our story. We had a couple different audiences in mind. We were able to place it with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency which is kind of like the AP of the Jewish world. That op-ed had a lot of play in a lot of different places. It was picked up in a lot of … in Israel but was most gratifying to me … We had extensive coverage but in the next slide shows that JTA in addition to … oh it’s not there, what I have in front of me.
Farra Trompeter: It’s gonna magically animate. Don’t you worry.
Deborah Waxman: Oh wonderful. So on the left side is the one that I listed and it went live. The same day we had done the press conference so the stories you saw on the previous page started to appear. A couple days later the Editor in Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wrote his own op-ed about our rebranding process. So where mine focused in on the content, and on the rationale, and on what we were trying to achieve, his actually told the story of a lot of what we were just talking about. What do you have to do, why we might wanna do it, what do you have to be thinking about. At the end he talked about the name is beautiful but at the end the organization really has to deliver on it. That’s a lot of what my op-ed tried to point toward and what we really wanna hold ourselves accountable at all times. So we were really, really pleased with the coverage that we just did a big presentation to our board kind of aggregating all the coverage.
Deborah Waxman: So for us I mean this has been mostly about a name but for us the entire identity, the logo and the visual identity also feels really, really essential to the work that we did. Some of the pushback that we’ve gotten, it’s been very light. It’s been mostly about bringing people along is that we adopted a verb for our name. What I love about this and I say and people find very compelling is that our mission is now our name. Our name is now our mission. And what I’ll say, and this is on the last slide about us on the next slide, some of the things that people have resonated with most deeply have been the tagline that goes with it and that really brings it to life.
Deborah Waxman: So you see we … what I love the intersection between … there’s a constructed nature obviously to our name, there’s a human oriented even architectural nature to our name and it’s paired with a very organic image. You saw from our Wordle that we have a very deep environmental consciousness and then we played on that in the language as well and deeply rooted in our traditional and boldly relevant to the current day. What we’re finding especially is that the … in fact today there was just a shout out at the Conservative Rabbis Convention about our new name and the tagline especially resonates deeply with prospective students and with Jewish communal professionals. So I mean it’s anecdotal but we’re getting it fairly consistently. Very gratifying and a big shift from what’s at the top of the slide to the bottom.
Farra Trompeter: Thank you Deborah and Josh. So we’re a little behind time and we can definitely, everyone on the call can stay a few minutes late. I wanna go over some general things and then get to some questions that have been sent in and still invite people. We won’t be able to address all of your questions but we can follow up by e-mail with some of you. If you still have questions feel free to chat them in. I do wanna share some brief things, if you are thinking about going through a name change some things you might think about.
Farra Trompeter: First of all, again, you wanna make sure a process like this is always rooted both in your strategic plan as well as in your overall goals and audiences. You want to have some kind of brand strategy guiding it because everyone will have an opinion about what is a good name, what’s not a good name, what is a good logo, et cetera. You wanna make sure it is rooted in clear strategy and direction. Again, what do we want people to think about us? How do we wanna make them feel?
Farra Trompeter: Then you really just wanna ask this question, do we need to change our name or maybe we can change our tagline. That might be enough. Or maybe there’s a different aspect of our messaging or our brand we can change that will help us accomplish our goals and audiences but we don’t need to change our name. So you don’t always need to change your name in a rebrand process.
Farra Trompeter: Then of course if you are going to explore a new name, think about what you want that new name to communicate. Create some guidelines. Imagine if there are kinds of names or the type of name change you wanna pursue or you don’t wanna pursue. And be really clear about what you are hoping to overcome in a new name so that you don’t create a new set of challenges.
Farra Trompeter: Then, again, open up this. Are we looking to just slightly evolve or do we want to go completely, you know, throw everything out there and have a revolution. Sometimes you might think you want a revolution then when you see it you dial it back and go to evolution or vice versa. It can be helpful to just get a pulse from people. This can be a good conversation to have with a board or for your whole staff.
Farra Trompeter: Again, we saw some different examples of buy in and participation from both Deborah and Josh and Nick. There’s lots of different ways to engage people in a process, great testing and feedback you can do among your staff and board as well as program participants and donors. Once you get to names you’re excited about it is really important of course to Google them. We also recommend checking a trademark database called TESS, looking at URL domains, social handles, what your peers are using.
Farra Trompeter: You wanna make sure that the names you fall in love with are actually available and make sure that that you don’t start sounding like your peers and less like yourself. You wanna try, feel, make sure your name works as you use it. Practice answer the phone saying, “Hi, this is Farra from X name.” Make sure it represents your values and who you are. Of course you wanna check with an Intellectual Property lawyer to make sure it is 100% available to use. You might also consider filing what’s called a DBA, a Doing Business As. For example, Big Duck’s legal name is Big Duck Studio Incorporated. That is still our legal name. It has not changed since we started in 1994 but a while ago we filed a Doing Business As name as Big Duck. So we use Big Duck in all our promotional purposes but on any legal documents, contracts, taxes, et cetera, we are still Big Duck Studio Incorporated. That is, again, something you can also explore doing.
Farra Trompeter: Finally, if you do change your name make sure you are also looking at the rest of your identity and figure out what ways do you wanna reintroduce the organization through rollout. There’s lots of resources on different kinds of brand rollout on our website as well. When you are thinking about that new name another way to try it on is to ask these questions. Does it represent who we are now? Does it represent who we hope to be in the future? Will it help us achieve our goals, reach those audience we’re trying to reach? How will the people who know us fell about it versus the new audiences we’re trying to make friends with? And finally, can we own it? Is this new name an idea that people will associate with us? Or will it cost a lot of money, take a lot of time to own, and if you still wanna go for it just make sure you have a plan for doing so.
Farra Trompeter: The one thing I wanna, I wanna reiterate a few things. Change is hard. A name change is one of the hardest things you might have to do if you work in branding or communications. Remember the number one job of your name is to identify who you are. It can’t do everything but it can work with other components of your identity. It’s important to start with strategy or else you will be deep down the road of taste and not everybody will love everything. I often talk about in naming the process of naming your children, everyone has an opinion about that name. If you feel good about it and it makes sense for various reasons, that still works. You just have to explain how you got there. And with your name, you’re trying to make sure that you don’t blend in and sound like everyone else, that you stand out.
Farra Trompeter: So again, there’s a few questions coming in. I wanna encourage people to still send some in. We’re gonna stay on for a few minutes. I wanna mention that there are lots of resources, as people are typing a few more questions. On Big Duck’s website, if you go to BigDuckNYC.com/insights you will see some articles on naming. We also recently released the Smart Communications podcast. There is a podcast I recorded with Sarah, our CEO, all about the board’s role in branding where the name comes up. We have one coming out later this summer on taglines, which is certainly a related topic, so check that out. Again, we’ve got lots of topics, the book on brandraising, studies we’ve done about the impact of branding on fundraising and other aspects of your communications, and that new podcast series that I hope you will take a listen to and subscribe.
Farra Trompeter: I wanna open it up to some questions we’ve been getting and pick a few to ask. Again, we’ll try and come back to others that we don’t get to. So one of the questions, and I’ll open this up to Nick or Deborah or Josh if anybody wants to answer, which is how will you, there’s a few questions around measurement. How will you track success? How will you know you’re successful with a name change? How do you plan to measure it? Now both of these new names are relatively new. Corporate Accountability launched in October. Reconstructing Judaism came out in late January, early February. So they’re all relatively new to the market so to speak but I’m curious if any of you wanna speak to that idea of measurement.
Nick Guroff: Yes Farra, I’m happy to jump in. This is Nick. I think there’s a couple things we considered. There’s both sort of the downstream indicators and the upstream. For us there is, we’ll certainly be looking at just membership growth, e-mail list growth, web views. There’s a whole set of things that we already have in our toolkits as nonprofits to look at what can be contributing, what can be the effect of the name change and the related activities. The other thing we started doing with Big Duck is polling. So we, I don’t think it’s as prevalent in the nonprofit field obviously as elsewhere but Big Duck began just in the last year doing something called a brandraising benchmark which provides some indicators within specific target audiences and among like organizations of where you source back up in terms of overall awareness.
Nick Guroff: So that was a very cost effective way for us to begin building some baselines just on who knows us, how they know us, how do they feel about our mission, how likely are they to give to us as an organization. We applied similar, we did surveys much like our other presenters here who to measure those same questions that are being asked among a broader community, among anyone on our e-mail list. So we had some really good information that we’ll be revisiting each year and asking some critical questions of.
Farra Trompeter: Great. Is there anything Josh or Deborah you guys wanna chime in on or should we go to the next question? We’ve got a few that I might wanna put through.
Josh Peskin: Sure, I’ll jump in. You know, I mean I think … when you do something like this I think you’re gonna get a lot of feedback whether you want it or not in fairly short order. So if the question is how do you know if the name change went well or not, you know I think … several data points start showing up fairly quickly both among your constituents, your partners, your like institutions. For us our congregants, our board. I think we heard fairly quickly and were able to make the assessment that … in the media, in our congregations, in our board, in our most of our audiences we had fairly universal appreciation with the every once in a while complaint which is inevitable, I probably should underscore that. But it also got brought up in our board meeting on Sunday that I think you’ll get a kick out of Farra, that if Big Duck asks you to be on a panel like this then that’s also a marker that you did it pretty well.
Farra Trompeter: I’d like to think so. There you go. So this is an interesting question that I’m curious if you all have an opinion on. Of course, I always have an opinion about everything. The question is would you suggest changing your organization’s name if it is somewhat dated or not politically correct? What if norms change? Anybody wanna take that? Deborah, I’ll go to you first and see if you have anything you wanna chime in and say on this one.
Josh Peskin: Oh it’s funny ’cause I feel like we’re actually a little bit ahead of the norm. The biggest reaction we’ve gotten is the fact that it is a verb. There’s a handful of people, and they tend to be of a particular age, who say either they kind of object grammatically or just that a verb shouldn’t be an organization’s name. So I feel like we’re actually a little bit ahead of that and the rest of the world is gonna grow into … what we’ve adopted. I do think that this is like … first of all this is just a time consuming and expensive process. I mean it doesn’t have to, it’s not hugely expensive but we understood really clearly that this was our highest priority over about 14 months and that we had to get this right. We had other really, really high priorities but this really kind of consumed our organization.
Josh Peskin: The decision was not a faddish decision. The decision was not a quick decision. It was one that we tried, that we wanted to both draw from the past but also kind of help us move into the future. So we were trying to think about a 20 year, 25 year, like from the past into the future. Granted there are norms that shift very, very quickly but not that many. If you’re dwelling in that kind of area then you should probably proceed very, very carefully.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah I mean I would say some of the most common … there have been name changes over the years where an organization has changed their name. NAACP, AARP are two examples like HIAS who went to just using the acronym because what the letters stood for were no longer words we use. So in the case of HIAS, calling Jewish people Hebrew is not really, is actually kind of seen as derogatory now but when they started now almost 140 years ago that wasn’t the case. In the cases of AARP, NAACP, again, what those letters stood for now we don’t use those terms.
Farra Trompeter: I think if your name is communicating, I talked about it being misleading or inaccurate, but I do think if it is speaking to something that is not how people think and feel and in fact it’s probably closing doors. I know when we talked with Corporate Accountability the President at Corporate Accountability, Kelly, would often say she hopes this new identity opens more doors for them. I think if your name is getting in the way of people to even want to talk to you that’s a big concern. I would say that would probably, I would really seriously consider what that is about and consider a name change in that process.
Farra Trompeter: I wanna open up to Nick or Deborah or Josh the idea of social media. We’ve shown the examples how both of you shared the name change on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. For most of the comments they, I believe, in your rolling out your brand they were favorable and exciting but I know sometimes there can be critiques. I don’t know if either of you dealt with any critiques or negative comments in public arenas that were on social media and how you handled that. So I’m curious if anyone wants to address that …
Josh Peskin: I can. We didn’t, fortunately, have any public negative feedback but we were anticipating it just given the nature of the creative process. You’re going to have people who have a visceral reaction or association with almost whatever you choose. It’s gonna be very subjective. So along those lines what was important for us was among the people whose input was most important or closer to the organization who really are sort of influences within our base and carry a lot of weight in terms of the currency of conversation around the organization. We created some opportunities to give sneak peeks to the name and we had a lot of individual conversations. We were very mindful of explaining where we were coming from, helping folks understand how their input informed the process. So we reached hundreds if not thousands of our core of the core before going to social. So a lot of those people understanding where the name came from or at least having a very positive visceral response in that first conversation weighed into that effect. That tended to be the currency of the response in the social forums. So I think we were happy that we took those steps and it was in keeping with the overall process and approach to that process that we had endeavored from the beginning.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah and I would just say and I think we’re gonna wrap up here, I would just say it’s always good to anticipate. In both these cases we did a lot of thinking about what does this new identity represent, what are all the elements spell out, what’s the story behind it, and just being ready to have clear talking points as to why we did this and try and lead the narrative. Of course if there is, there will be feedback either in public forums or in private forums and just be ready to explain why you did this and keep coming back to things like look, it’s in our strategic plan and trying to achieve our mission. This was getting in our way. So that people again move from subjective to a more objective place.
Farra Trompeter: I wanna thank Nick and Deborah and Josh for joining us. I wanna thank all of you for calling in. If you’re interested in coming to other webinars or workshops you could just go to our website at BigDuckNYC.com/events. We’ve got some exciting fundraising workshops and content planning workshops coming up in the next few months so hopefully you will come and spend the day or another hour or so with me or Sarah in the near future. Again, I just wanna thank everybody and hope you have a great day.