Nonprofit Performance 360 Issue 13

Executive Office


What’s in a Name?

Branding can be defined as a promise you make to your constituents: what they can expect from working with you. It’s the complete experience people get when they engage with your organization. Before someone can experience your promise, however, they have to meet you. With first impressions, a person can leap quickly to conclusions, and those conclusions can stick. Almost 20 years before my current position, I was a volunteer, as well as the child of a long-time volunteer, with a local America’s Junior Miss program. I grew up steeped in the history and positive mission of the program, knowing its brand from close as- sociation and from tens of thousands of alumnae, volunteers, and supporters who shared my love for the organization. But a brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Al- though the mission of America’s Junior Miss (to empower young women to reach their full potential through a free program of workshops and the offering of hundreds of millions of dollars in college scholarships) was known by those close to the organiza- tion, the outside world could not get past our name. It seemed antiquated to our young target audience. For decades, applications declined and the volunteer base shrank. Although your name should not define your brand, it is a prominent part of your story. It was time for us to find a name that created a first impression focusing on the impactful work we do for young women, not a name that people assumed was a beauty pageant. So in 2006, the organization began to ex- plore a name change, not easy to do with

ing this process, the organization opened communication flow in both directions. In any large-scale organizational change, you’ll need long-term sup- port, enthusiasm, and commitment from your entire organization. Let your base be a valuable part of the project. Be prepared to listen and accept opinions that differ from the direction your leadership may want to go. Although there will always be members who do not agree with changes, making sure everyone is part of the process allows the community to come together and sup- port the eventual change. It took several years to arrive at our new name, Distinguished Young Women. The new moniker better tells the story of the organization’s mission and the outstanding students we are trying to engage, impact, and inspire. When a new manual with the brand story and supporting materials was released, the engaged community embraced the changes and began living the new name and brand in the everyday operation of the organization. By spending time on the process and gaining buy-in from the entire community, our culture has been transformed into one that values branding and communications like never before. Kendra Haskins has served as the Executive Director of the Distinguished Young Women Foundation since 2017. She previously owned a design, marketing, and branding studio with an emphasis on small business development. She serves on the steering committee of the FOCUS Women’s Conference; her mission is to see women of all ages be successful in their personal and professional lives.

50+ years of history. How do you change a part of your organization that genera- tions of alumnae, volunteers, and support- ers identify with? The leadership engaged all the stakeholders in the name change, so they would buy into the change and be- come advocates for the new brand message and platform. The leadership must create buy-in from top-level management and sponsors, si- multaneous with grass roots support and enthusiasm, to establish commitment to living the brand throughout the organiza- tion. To do this, the leadership must listen to the internal audiences and use what is learned to prioritize, gain support, create brand ambassadors, and build a sustainable branding effort through ongoing commu- nications. Our first step was education of all stake- holders. The leadership shared the public perception issues with the old name, the thoughts behind how a name change was a positive step forward, and how the name change would be rolled out. Constituents also needed to understand how new chang- es or concepts would affect them person- ally. Multiple communications included a series of open phone calls over the course of almost 18 months that allowed volunteers and supporters to hear the reasoning. Dur-

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