Clarissa McCoid explores how Naming Opportunities can expand your organisation’s fundraising potential and offers 5 fundamental tips for those considering it.

naming opportunitiesNaming Opportunities, also known as Naming Rights, have long played a part in acknowledging the generosity of philanthropists worldwide.

Honour versus currency

Traditionally, the honour of having one’s name on a public building was often a recognition of a significant contribution to a particular field. Albert Einstein—whose name graces The Einstein Tower, an astrophysical observatory in the Albert Einstein Science Park in Potsdam, Germany, and The Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil—is just one example of many.

Naming was also in recognition of major philanthropic gifts, such as that of Andrew Carnegie to the world-famous concert venue Carnegie Hall, New York City, in 1891.

Historical namings such as these have helped shape the frameworks and methodologies used in current best practice.

The Australian context

Many significant and well-known names adorn Australian public facilities. These include Sidney Myer through the Sidney Myer Fund (Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 1959), Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, 1986), and Sir Ian Potter (Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, 2002).

Philanthropic Naming Opportunities are not as common in Australia as in other more strongly established philanthropic cultures, such as the USA. Here, the practice has been most evident in schools, higher education and the arts.

How does it work?

A Naming Opportunity is an honour bestowed by the beneficiary organisation upon the donor in recognition of their generosity. It is not a “right” as it may be in a sponsorship arrangement, and the beneficiary organisation should retain control of decisions over naming.

Naming can apply to public buildings; major or minor public spaces (eg, parks, walkways or courtyards); scholarships and prizes, programs, chairs/professorships/lectureships, and infrastructure, such as seating (eg, concert hall, aquatic centre, rowing skull), tiles or pavers.

Naming Opportunities can apply to the naming of a physical space (eg Elder Hall, Adelaide, named after Thomas Elder, 1890), or to a brand or entity (eg, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, named after James Patrick Garvan, the late father of donor Mrs Helen Mills, in 1963).

A Naming Opportunities Program may be driven by an organisational campaign for new facilities yet to be built, with the fundraising target determining the financial value of Named Gift Opportunities.

Global Philanthropic’s client, Cranbrook School, recently launched its Realise Capital Campaign, which aims to raise $25 million for the construction of a seven-storey Centenary Building and an Aquatic and Fitness Centre.

A tiered structure offers Naming Opportunities ranging from $10,000 to $1 million, including studio facilities, classroom plaques, bronze pavers in the Centenary Lawn, and seats in the School’s theatre and hall. The campaign website effectively conveys a sense of urgency by featuring a countdown of the giving opportunities remaining.

Engagement driven

Naming Programs may also be implemented as a means of increasing philanthropic engagement and revenue in relation to facilities that already exist. This is typically referred to as Naming Acknowledgement, rather than Naming Rights or Opportunities.

What’s in it for donors?

Naming Opportunities can be a motivating factor for prospects and donors to give. Common drivers include:

  • To gain public recognition
  • To strengthen family legacy
  • To honour a loved one in memoriam
  • To increase social standing/gain prestige
  • To strengthen brand identity
  • To increase awareness of an issue or cause (eg, marginalisation/disadvantage, health issue/disease/disability).

Donors are not making a decision to sign up to the “best sales deal”, though the value of the gift does come into play. They are more likely seeking a synergy of ideals and principles with an organisation that shares and embodies their values.

Keep in mind that even with Naming Opportunities as the incentive, some donors will still wish to remain anonymous, and this needs to be accommodated in your Naming Program.

What’s in it for you?

Naming Opportunities can be a strategic means of helping achieve your organisation’s philanthropic goals. They are an opportunity to deepen and grow your organisation’s long-term relationships with donors.

A clear naming framework can be an enabler for conversations with donors. Being able to convey clear, quantifiable information to donors and prospects on the value of contributions is a critical factor for any fundraiser.

Naming can also generate social endorsement amongst peer communities, sending other potential donors a “signal” that the cause/project/campaign/organisation is worth supporting. It encourages donors to consider naming as a means of showing leadership and contributing to building a collective, philanthropic culture.

As a fundraising tool, Naming Opportunities can create an edge of difference and brand for organisations in the often overcrowded philanthropic marketplace.

5 tips before you start a Naming Opportunities Program

  1. Assess and evaluate your organisation’s motivations for considering a Naming Opportunities Program. Do they support your strategic philanthropic objectives?
  2. Develop a structured framework to consistently and methodically evaluate spaces and facilities (either off-plan/from existing facilities)—this should take into account not only space, but visibility, form and function.
  3. You need a Naming Opportunities Policy—and it should complement other organisational policies, including Gift Acceptance policies and Major Gift agreements.
  4. Take a good look at your prospect and donor pool to identify potential lead donors for a Naming Program before you commit.
  5. Naming programs open the door to developing perpetual, multi-generational relationships with families. Make sure you treat every donor relationship as such.   

Naming programs open the door to developing perpetual, multi-generational relationships with families. Make sure you treat every donor relationship as such. 

Clarissa McCoid is a Senior Consultant with Global Philanthropic. She has worked across the nonprofit, private and government sectors and is well known for her innovative thinking and systematic approach to philanthropy and fundraising.  Recent clients include National Gallery Singapore, the Australian Antarctic Division, and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy.

Global Philanthropic provides a full suite of Naming Opportunities services. Contact Clarissa to find out more:

Mobile: +61 432 668 345
Email: [email protected]



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