Many nonprofit organizations – from trade associations to 501c3 groups — use an acronym in place of the group’s full name in collateral, correspondence and conversation. Unless the group is the U.N., however, organizations may be doing themselves a disservice by relying too extensively on nomenclature that’s more alphabet soup than purpose-driven.
In a society that communicates by text messages and 140 character tweets, abbreviations are all the rage. When it comes to conveying what your organization stands for, brevity is not necessarily better. In addition to generating potential confusion, this form of short hand means your organization is missing an opportunity to communicate its purpose.
Here’s just one example. If you Google associations with the initials AAP the search will return pages and pages of listings — American Association of, American Academy of…just pick a profession that begins with the letter “p” — pediatrician, publisher, physician, paralegal, psychologist, psychiatrist…you get the idea.
As a marketing communications professional, I love that acronyms fit more easily into a tweet or a website address. Yet I know that it can take substantial time, effort and money for a charity, professional society or trade association to become readily recognizable to outsiders by its acronym. Not every organization has the resources or history of a group such as ASPCA or AAA.
This is not to suggest, however, that acronyms should never be used. When an organization, through its branding strategy, can create a direct and meaningful link between the acronym and the organization’s purpose, the results can be powerful. One such example is CARE. Founded in 1945 as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, the organization’s purpose was to send parcels of food to Europe after WWII. While its role has evolved into fighting global poverty and the letters C-A-R-E now stand for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, the name CARE still embodies the organization’s humanitarian mission and is recognized around the world.
As an organization considers its branding strategy, groups that want their names to be associated with a specific purpose may do themselves a disservice through over-utilization of their acronym. In turn, we may do other individuals and organizations a disservice by taking the shortcut when speaking or writing about them. One of Dale Carnegie’s Golden Rules is: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Convey your organization’s name with clarity and conviction so that others might do the same.
*Kellen Communications is a full service public relations, public affairs and digital agency specializing in work for not for profit organizations including charities, trade associations and professional societies. www.kellencommunications.com.