A Nonprofit Feels Pressure to Take On a New Name

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Whats-in-a-name

“What’s in a name?” / Jack Dorsey

January 6, 2016; Associations Now

The International Species Information System, or ISIS for short, feels as though it is forced to change its name after 40 years. The group, which is based in Bloomington, Minnesota and employs 25, provides software to member aquariums, zoos, and rehabilitation centers to log animal information.

It’s not that there’s any real risk of confusion; their business partners are clear about who they are and are not. On the other hand…

“At minimum you get a chuckle; in a lot of cases you get people questioning, looking at you in a funny way,” CEO Jim Guenter said. “So, in order to avoid some of that nuance and challenge publically, we just needed to move on and find a new name, since the name doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.”

The decision was not an easy one for the group, whose current Internet domain is ISIS.org, and the rebranding effort will largely have to follow the usual steps in choosing a new name, logo, and web presence and then making them stick, both internally and with partners. All of that takes an investment of time and money, and the whole thing was essentially thrust upon the group by circumstance rather than an affirmative feeling that the name no longer fits the mission or is not sufficiently or appropriately descriptive.

Guenter did note that the urgency of the name change was more acutely felt by American board members than those from countries whose media refer to the terrorist group by other names.

I have further discussed the problems related with name changes in “Changing your Organizational Name is a Risky Business,” which focused in particular on the names of organizations in the field of disabilities, where some terms have become not only antiquated but objectionable over the years.—Ruth McCambridge