What’s in a name? While roses can go by any other name, the name of a nonprofit matters a lot for branding and donor discoverability purposes. Changing the name should be done with great caution and consideration.
There are many reasons why a nonprofit organization may want to change its name or address like a change in programming or expansion. Once the decision is made, there are few ways to update the IRS about the change.
Use the 990 to Change a Name/Address
The simplest way is to wait until filing the organization’s 990 and note the change of name or address in the actual form: Annual Exempt Organization Returns, Notices and Schedules | Internal Revenue Service
It is clearly noted at the top left corner of the form to check if there is a change in name or address. What is also nice about waiting for the 990 (Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-N) is that for nonprofit organizations that use tax professionals, the change can be reviewed.
Change Nonprofit Name by Mail/FAX
For organizations in a hurry or for those that don’t file official 990s, there is a way to send a letter. Unfortunately, the IRS does not allow phone calls for the purpose of changing a name, so you’ll need to go old school, non-electronic mail or FAX (facsimile machine): Change of Name – Exempt Organizations | Internal Revenue Service
How to write a Nonprofit Change of Name letter:
According to the IRS website, the letter or fax reporting the change of name must include your organization’s
- Full name (both the prior name and the new name)
- Employer Identification Number and
- Authorized signature (an officer or trustee) with the stated role in the organization with permission to make the change.
Where to send a letter of Name change:
Internal Revenue Service
Exempt Organizations Determinations
P.O. Box 2508
Cincinnati, OH 45201
How to change a nonprofit’s address
To change the address of a nonprofit organization in the US, follow the IRS directions: Change of Address – Exempt Organizations | Internal Revenue Service
The quick summary is that the 990 (Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-N) can be used or a Form 8822-B can be used: Form 8822-B, Change of Address or Responsible Party – Business.
How to check if a Name or Address Changed worked
If a nonprofit just needs a quick confirmation, the IRS is just one call away. Call IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Customer Account Services at 877-829-5500 (toll-free number).
And, just in case, for a good time call 8675-309
If a nonprofit needs an actual confirmation by letter – AKA Affirmation Letter, they need to mail or fax the IRS: Exempt Organizations – Affirmation Letters | Internal Revenue Service
8 Reasons Why a Nonprofit SHOULD Change its Legal Name
Your nonprofit’s legal name is more than just a signature at the bottom of your website – it’s a representation of your brand and your mission. A well-chosen name can communicate what your nonprofit does in a single phrase, and make it easier for people to find you online and donate to your cause.
But sometimes, a legal name just doesn’t fit anymore. Maybe your programming has expanded beyond what your original name suggests, or you merged with another organization and need to unify under one banner. Whatever the reason, changing your nonprofit’s legal name is a big decision – but it can be the right one for your organization.
Here are 8 reasons why you should consider changing your nonprofit’s legal name:
1. Your current name no longer accurately reflects what you do
If your programs have changed or expanded since you first chose your name, it may no longer be an accurate representation of what you do. A new name can better reflect the scope of your work, and help people understand what you do at a glance.
2. You want to unify multiple organizations under one banner
If you’ve recently merged with another organization, or are considering doing so, changing your legal name can be a way to unify everyone under one banner. This can simplify things like marketing and fundraising, and make it clear to external audiences that you are one organization with one mission.
3. Your current name is too similar to another organization’s
Having a unique name is important for both search engine optimization (SEO) and branding purposes. If there are already other organizations with names similar to yours, changing yours can help you stand out from the crowd and be more easily found online. And if you have registered trademarks on certain aspects of your old name, like a logo or tagline, those can usually be transferred over to the new one.
4. Appeal to a different audience
If you’re looking to grow or change the people you serve, a new name can help signal that change to your audience. This can be especially helpful if your current name has a geographic location in it (like “New York City” or “Los Angeles”), which can limit your reach to people outside of that area.
5. Move away from a controversial, noninclusive or negative past
If there’s something in your organization’s history that you want to distance yourself from, changing your legal name can be a way to do that. Whether it’s an old name that’s been associated with negative press, or something more personal like a founder who is no longer with the organization, starting fresh with a new name can help you move on from the past. Or noninclusive language was used in the name. Note that a tool to find all uses of noninclusive language may be needed too.
6. Your current name is too long or hard to pronounce/spell
While having a unique name is important for branding purposes, you also want to make sure it’s something people can actually remember and spell when they see it. If your current name is too long or hard to pronounce/spell, people may have trouble finding you online or donate and forget about you over time. A shorter, simpler name can be easier for people to remember and spell – making it more likely they’ll find and support your organization over time. Additionally, a shorter name can also be less expensive when it comes time to print marketing materials like business cards and signage.
7. Rebrand to align with Nonprofit recognition
There are many other reasons why you might want to consider changing your nonprofit’s legal name, even if nothing specific has changed about your programs or mission. Maybe you feel like it’s time for a fresh start, or want to signal a change in leadership or direction for the organization. Sometimes, a legal name change can improve recognition for people searching for your legal name on donation forms on sites like Facebook or Network for Good.
8. Avoid confusion with a for-profit organization
If your nonprofit’s name is too similar to a for-profit business, it can cause confusion for potential donors and partners. People may not realize you’re a nonprofit, or think you’re affiliated with a for-profit company – neither of which is good for your organization. Changing your name to something more clearly nonprofit-related can help avoid this confusion.