September 7, 2017; Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA)

NPQ has written many newswires over the years about organizational name changes by nonprofits. In some cases, the name must change because it uses outdated terms—sometimes pretty astoundingly so, as in “The Spastic Society”—and sometimes it’s because the name is simply no longer accurate…kind of like Nonprofit Quarterly. Before doing so, it’s worth weighing the potential consequences—among them, confusion among constituents and a lack of public profile and brand.

Take, for example, the 52-year-old Community Action Southwest, which is spread across a number of counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It was, as this article in the Observer-Reporter says, one of 43 community action agencies in the state and 1,100 of them nationwide. Henceforth, it will be known as “Blueprints.”

“We were really looking for something that would better communicate who we are,” said Executive Director Darlene Bigler. “We worked with everyone in the organization for a six-month process, looking for a name that would encompass all of our products and services.”

The agency appears to be trying to distinguish itself by emphasizing elements of the core of its practice over its association with a national field of like organizations, even though it remains, from the way this article describes it, in pretty much the same mold.

“It was confusing (using) the name Community Action Southwest because there are other Community Action agencies,” she said. And, after acquiring Try Again Homes, which operates in West Virginia, “the whole idea of ‘Southwest’ really didn’t apply.”

According to the article, the new logo, which is two thumbprints made into a heart, signifies staff designing solutions with clients. The new tagline, “Break barriers, build futures, powered by community action,” acts as a bridge—perhaps a rather short one—between the old and the new name.

For every community action agency worth its salt, however, community participation and ownership are paramount. When Community Action acquired an organization in West Virginia, they no longer felt tied to a name that was linked to southwest Pennsylvania. By including the community in its name change, they involved the whole of their new, larger user base in an engagement exercise to renew the relationship, now including the whole of its newly expanded geographic base.—Ruth McCambridge