Naming rights are typically associated with very large donations, but it can be done on a smaller scale. If you’re part of a smaller organization, offering naming rights can be an enticing way for donors to feel more connected to your mission. It’s also an opportunity to be a bit creative with how your organization builds donor relationships and encourages long-term involvementas they are contributing directly to the legacy of your organization 

When you start to think of auction items for your upcoming events, campaigns or a donation drive, consider adding naming rights to build excitement within your donor base! If it’s a smaller item with a lower impact, you can add it as an auction item with a minimum opening bid, but allowing the donors to bid up the price. If it’s a bigger item or will have a higher impact on your organization, you should decide on the expected donation amount. 

There are a few factors to consider when exploring naming rights – adding a time limit, vetting the donor, and how exactly you’ll display or credit the donor. For most organizations, there’s only a certain number of items, buildings, programs, etc. that you can give a naming right to, so adding a time limit of months or years will ensure it can be recycled for later fundraising.  

The donor’s name will be connected to your organization for this time limit, so consider – is there a vetting process? Should you add a disclaimer that the organization has a right to ask for more personal information? There’s a lot of helpful research and guidance on the best way to vet your donors, such as this study on the ‘Best Practice in Vetting Prospects’ by the Association of Advancement Services Professionals.  

As you share this naming rights opportunity with your community, be sure to emphasize exactly how you’ll share or show the donor’s name. It will depend on the type of item receiving the name, but it could be a plaque, a sign, adding their name to your organization’s website, or including the name in your future communications. This donor will likely want to be publicly recognized, so be clear in your organization’s plan to do so.  

Museums, sports teams, concert spaces, and universities have been using naming rights for decades, especially for donors who give big gifts. But how can your smaller organization adopt the same idea in your own way? We’ve listed ten ideas below to jump-start your brainstorming: 

1. Animals or habitats at a zoo or aquarium   

2. Benches  

3. Bricks in construction  

4. Buildings or parks 

5. Stars or astrological discoveries   

6. Name part of your existing space – elevators, stairways, conference rooms, even a restroom! 

7. A program or campaign – e.g. Mungall’s Campaign for Good; Smith’s Summer Camp  

8. Ongoing maintenance or renovation of a space 

9. Rename the principal’s office for a year 

10. Run a program, series, or course – free to your community, funded by and named after the donor

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Do you have any to add to the list? Tag us on social and let us know your ideas!

Related Resources:

Fundraising Guide: Local Institutions
3 wild ways that zoos fundraise
Improving zoo fundraising with software
Museum fundraising guide
15 silent auction items that don’t cost a dime
10 alternatives to live-experience auction items

Kelsey Woodworth