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10 Tips: Choosing A Great NGO Name

NGO Names are the official names of non-governmental organizations. NGOs advocate for human rights, social justice, gender equality, environmental protection and any other issues that ultimately make the world a better place for everyone. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, Oxfam, Reprieve, Privacy International and Human Rights First are some well known NGO Names.

Starting an NGO isn’t an easy task. You may believe that selecting a name won’t be the most difficult part, but that doesn’t mean it should be done in a rush. Your NGO’s name is the first thing people see when they look at your organization. When chosen thoughtfully, a name conveys important information about who you are and what you’re all about. Names like Save the Children or Equality now is an actual call to action in itself and everytime someone speaks about the organization they replicate the call to action.

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Here are ten tips on choosing a better NGO name:

1#. Ask yourself basic questions about your organization

When you’re first brainstorming names, you want to think about what your NGO does and what you want people to know about it. Asking your team questions and coming up with keywords can help inspire some ideas. One example is “What will this NGO do?” Possible keywords include “teach,” “advocate,” feed,” and so on. The next question is “Who or what does the NGO serve?” Groups you may advocate for include the homeless, refugees, women, children, people with albinism etc, as well as causes like climate change litigation, human rights, gender equality or food security. Lastly, think about who the organization consists of. If your group consists of a specific group (like students, lawyers, doctors, etc), it could be a good idea to include that in your name. NGO Names like Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, Anti-Slavery International, Equality Now all have something in common: They are simple, clear and convey their mission in their name. Just by learning about the name of the organization you will already have an idea about what they are working on.

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#2. Play around with words

Once you have some keywords that reflect your organization’s core features, it’s time to play around with them. The first word you think of will most likely not be the one with the most meaning or impact. Get a thesaurus or use online tools and consider looking at different languages for inspiration, as well. As you choose words with impact and line them up with each other, a combination that clicks might reveal itself. If you are considering to start an international NGO, reflect if the name could work in different languages. Sometimes words may have undesirable historic connotations that you want to avoid.

#3. Avoid names that are too narrow

When you’re brainstorming, don’t be too specific about what your organization does. You want it broad enough so there’s room to grow as time passes. If your name is too narrow or literal, you can outgrow it and it won’t accurately reflect what your organization does. While you can’t forecast the future, you always want to leave space for the possibilities. Amnesty International is a prominent example. The human rights movement started to advocate for Prisoners of conscience but today the organization works on many different issues including Climate Change and Human Rights, Abortion Rights and Human Rights and Digital Security.

#4. Keep things simple

While you want to avoid boring words, you don’t want your name to be too complicated either. Names that are hard to say and spell are usually harder to remember. You don’t want people to have to think too hard about your name. It can take some time to find the right ones, but words that are both simple and interesting do exist. Also take the pronounceability of the word into account. Is it easy to say the NGO Name or do people struggle? Word to mouth might be a powerful way to spread knowledge about your NGO. This may sound like a trivial aspect but the sound of NGO names when spoken out loud is quite important. People will hesitate to say the name of your NGO if it is very difficult to pronounce and they are afraid to say it wrong. Organizations like Action Aid, Article 19, Oxfam and Redress are great examples of phonetically pleasing NGO Names.

#5. Consider the acronym

Once you have some name ideas, take a closer look at their acronyms. Many organizations like using an acronym that’s memorable or spells another word related to the NGO’s mission. This is tricky, so it’s not required. You do want to make sure your acronym doesn’t spell something odd or inappropriate, though.

#6. Reconsider using geographic locations

While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, you should think twice before using a geographic location in your name. While it can be good because it lets potential donors know that you’re local, it can limit you in the future if you want to expand. Think about your long-term goals and if you want to work in one area forever or not.

#7. Avoid trends

It can be tempting to hop on a bandwagon and pick a name with a trendy word. That will get people’s attention, right? Bear in mind that trends come and go. You don’t want a name that will be dated in a year. You probably don’t want a name that will sound dated in five years. Choose a name that will endure.

#8. Make sure no other NGOs have your name

When you have some good ideas for names, you want to check and make sure there aren’t any organizations with the same name. You don’t want to get in legal trouble. You also want to be able to trademark your name. Even similar-sounding names can be an issue because people can confuse the NGOs.

#9. If you love multiple names, use leftovers for a program/campaign

You might come up with a handful of names that you connect with. If it’s hard to let any of them go, plan on using them for other things like programs or campaigns. This could make it easier for you to choose one name for your entire organization because you aren’t throwing any away completely. As an example, if you like a name that includes a geographic location, use it for a program. It will emphasize that you are local, but you aren’t limiting the growth of your NGO by putting it in the big name.

#10. Check the online availability of your name

Once you have established your NGO and want to spread awareness about it you will likely want to have a website and social media accounts. Check the availability of your NGO name on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and in Registrars. Are the handles and .org/.com domains still available? Preferably you will have a consistent branding across all your channels.

Consider taking a free NGO online course for inspiration!

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About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.