What’s in a name? When it comes to choosing an association name, a lot can ride on it. Your organization has to consider multiple factors when choosing a name. Current and potential members need to immediately understand your association’s purpose, and your name needs to be easy to remember.

Website checklist ebook cta graphic

When it comes to association names, they can be both an art and a science. And that applies whether you’re a fledgling association just finding your feet or a well-established organization going through a rebrand. 

To help you narrow down your list of potential names, we’ve put together a rundown of what to consider and a compilation of best practices. Here, you’ll learn:

Why your association name matters

As we alluded to above, your association’s name carries a lot of weight for multiple reasons. Not only does it immediately make the public aware of what you do, but your association name can make your organization’s mission crystal clear.

Some other ways your association name matters are:

First impressions.

Your association name (and logo) is the first thing anyone encounters for your organization. That applies to potential members, sponsors, or your community.

Opens and closes doors.

A name can bring your organization new opportunities, but it can close you off to them as well. For example, if you choose a name like “Cincinnati Builders’ Association,” you’ll generally only get members from that city and potential members from outside Cincinnati might be turned off from joining.

Your name will be everywhere.

Whatever you choose for your association name, it will represent your organization for many years to come. Not only that — it’ll also grace all your branded materials like your website, the nameplate above your offices, your promotional swag like shirts and pens, and all your signage. So, it’s crucial that you get it right.

Common types of association names

Association names can vary from short and punchy to clever and creative. Although there’s plenty of variation, many organizations base their association name around one or more of a handful of common factors.

While these types of association names are some of the most common, don’t feel boxed in by this list. If you have more creative ideas that still tick all the right boxes, then pitch it to your team.

Locationfocused

Where is your organization based? Geography is a straightforward focus your association name. That way, current and prospective members immediately understand that your organization covers a specific territory. One example is the Toronto Lawyers Association.

Inspired by industry

What industry do you work in, and who are you targeting for membership? Including this right in your association name ensures there’s no confusion around your target audience. An example would be the Association of Fundraising Professionals

Calling out a founder

Is your organization’s founder a celebrity or well-known public figure? A familiar name has power, and you can leverage that recognition by including it in your association name. An example is the David Suzuki Foundation.

Choosing an association name: Questions to ask

While the list of types of common association names above can give you some great guidance, there are a few additional factors to keep in mind. Before you begin brainstorming and while you are writing down ideas, ask yourself and your team these questions:

Who is your ideal member?

Who is your ideal member and how would your chosen name resonate with them? Consult your member personas when brainstorming potential association names so you’ll be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

What is your acronym?

Many associations shorten their names to an acronym form. For example, the Toronto Lawyers’ Association becomes TLA. Before settling on your association name, make sure the acronym form works for you.

What type of sponsors are you after?

Your members aren’t the only audience with which your name should resonate. Potential sponsors will also make assumptions based on your association name. You want to make it immediately clear whether it might be a good fit for sponsors to support your organization. 

How do you pronounce it?

While this might be obvious, don’t forget to consider the difficulty in pronouncing your association name! Will your members or sponsors run into issues when trying to say your name? What about when reading it? Is your name phonetic in order to avoid such challenges? 

How long is it?

When reading your chosen association name out loud, do you need to stop halfway through to take a breath? While this might feel like a minor consideration, the length of your association name can create issues. Keep in mind that your organization’s name will need to fit on marketing materials, swag, and will be read out loud at events. If it’s succinct, it’ll also be more memorable.

5 tips for naming your association

Now that you have a strong foundation to help you understand why association names are important and the common types, let’s move forward with the brainstorming process. As you get started, keep these handful of tips in mind to help you get the most out of the process:

1. Involve your board and members

As you begin brainstorming, you’ll need to get all the right stakeholders involved. Get the input of your board and your members. Your board can likely contribute some great ideas to get you started, and once you narrow down your names to just a few, your members can help you finalize your options. 

When you run your potential names by your board and members, you can also gauge their reactions to your choices. From there, you can make some decisions about which names to cut from your list.

2. Don’t rush it

Because your association name carries so much weight, it’s important to take your time with making your final choice. While it’s crucial to have a strong name in place to promote your organization, don’t rush it. Sit with your options rather than making a snap decision.

3. Look at your top pick in different ways

When you’re staring down a challenge, sometimes the solution presents itself when you look at things from a different angle. The same applies to your association name.

When you’ve narrowed down your potential names to a few (around three), add each option to markups of your business cards, website, marketing materials, T-shirts, etc. How does each name look on your branded materials and swag? Does your top choice fit in the space provided? What works well in a Word doc might not look great in other places where you’ll need to display your association name.

4. Take time to brainstorm 

Now, some tactics to get your creative juices flowing. Schedule time with your staff and stakeholders to have a formal brainstorming session. You can ask everyone to come to your meeting with a few suggestions as well.

During the brainstorming meeting, prompt discussion by asking:

  •  What is your association goal?
  •  Who are your members?
  •  What do you do?
  •  What makes you unique?
  •  Why do you love your association?

The answers to these crucial questions can help everyone starting thinking about who the name is meant to serve, your organization’s mission, and what you do best. You can build from there!

5. Get creative

While many association names are pretty straightforward (think: your city + your industry like “Toronto Lawyers’ Association”), but there’s no need to be too literal. You can get a bit creative and think outside the box when brainstorming your potential association names. 

For example: You can make up a words to describe what your organization does, like Sensibill, a receipt management tool. Or you can lean more heavily in your offerings or services in your name (like “The One Club for Creativity”, a design association). 

You can also be playful, if it’s appropriate for your member base and industry. For example, “The Society of Typographic Aficionados.”

Time to start brainstorming names for your association

Now that you’re armed with all the factors you need to weigh when creating your association name, you can work with your team to brainstorm ideas. 

A name is one way to build trust with your member base. If you need more help building credibility, check out our article on other ways to strengthen your organization’s brand authority