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Picking the "perfect" name can be torture. Not to worry: few things matter less to the success of your campaign.
Tom Ahern

April, 2008

Nothing is likely to receive as much anguished attention from the campaign committee as choosing a theme.

Don't torture yourself. Honestly, almost any reasonable name will do.

Your theme is a banner. You march under it toward a special goal. But does it matter what the banner says? Not much.

The theme simply distinguishes "the campaign" from your other, more routine fundraising activities.

Here are some samples from campaigns I've worked on:

--- The New Zoo: The Campaign to Make Roger Williams Park Zoo Exceptionally Great -- Again
--- Urgent: The Campaign for a New St. Luke's (for a new emergency department)
--- It's Live! The Campaign for Great Music Forever (for a symphony endowment)
--- Endowed Chairs at Colgate University: Academic Leadership in the 21st Century
--- The Emergence of Stony Brook Campaign
--- The Campaign for the Next Century (for a historic home in need of repairs)
--- Sanctuary Plus: The Campaign to Expand My Sister's Place (for a women's shelter)
--- The Be Exceptional Campaign (for a private school)
--- Prelude: Step One of a Three-Step Campaign (for a symphony's campaign to cover a structural deficit)
--- The Campaign to Do More (for a women's shelter)

Capital Quest, a U.S. consulting firm, has this advice: "[A campaign theme is] usually three to five words that summarize the VISION of the campaign, focusing on the benefits to the community of a successful campaign."

An online search will quickly turn up dozens of ideas for potential themes. A search under the keywords "university capital campaign," for example, quickly produced dozens of options including:

--- The straightforward (Campaign for Purdue)
--- The anniversary related (Centennial Campaign)
--- The forward looking (Campaign for Delaware: Positioning the College for the Future)
--- The majestic (A Grand Destiny: The Penn State Campaign)
--- Those suggesting "giving back" ("Generations" Campaign at Notre Dame)
--- Strong emotions (The Miami University Campaign: For Love and Honor)
--- The pursuit of excellence (A New Vision of Excellence: The Campaign for Central Michigan University)

I've run across what I thought were outstanding campaign names. I murmured praise the first time I saw this theme on an ad in my alumni magazine: Boldly Brown -- The Campaign for Academic Enrichment.

It struck a personal chord. Being bold is better than being bland, in fundraising and other sorts of marketing communications. I teach that. So I liked Brown's bold attitude. Brown is one of those universities ever on the edge of a reputation for greatness -- but not quite there. I thought boldness was exactly what was needed.

I give it an A+ grade for the adverb.

Boldly Brown is the setup. The Campaign for Academic Enrichment is the payoff. It follows the same two-step structure as a joke: setup, punch line.

How's this payoff? Pretty vague. Grade: D. Pure ground jargon meat. It didn't flunk simply because it does correctly spell two English words. So it could have been worse.

Did Boldly Brown work with me as a campaign theme?

Check my will when I'm gone.

Here's what you do.

At that scary, indecisive moment, when your name-picking committee comes down to just a handful of top contenders, there's just one relevant question you need to ask, "Will we raise more with one name over another…"

If not, put them all in a hat.

Pick one.

LOVE THY READER: The Science and Secrets of Effective Nonprofit Communications by Tom Ahern - from his top-rated workshop of the same name Volume 5, Number 4 --- Copyright Tom Ahern 2008. Visit www.AhernComm.com. Copyright 2008 by Tom Ahern -- All rights reserved



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