Legendary Charity Brands: Remembering Community Chest

The excellent blog The Agitator, for non-profits, had a great post on bringing old charity brands back to life.

Fascinating.

Which got us thinking. Here at BrandlandUSA, we always MISSED that United Way was no longer Community Chest. Community Chest will have free advertising in perpetuity because of Hasbro’s game, Parker Brothers’ Monopoly.

Looking back on the name change in 1963 from Community Chest to United Way, was it the best decision? United Way, to this writer, always seemed to have un-local associations. You mean, if I don’t give this year, I am not UNITED with all my fellow co-workers? Do we all need to “Unite!” And isn’t “united” really a word choice that is reserved for labor movements?

In addition, many people wrongly associate United Way with the United Nations and orange boxed (we love the orange box!) Unicef, as both of the organizations were ascendant in 1960s. Interesting that United Way had its own awful scandals, which were all related to its getting away from its local organization.

Thankfully, there are still some Community Chests around, namely one in Massachusetts called the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest. They have been around since 1947. Their simple yet wonderful website notes that their logo, pictured here, was designed by “Ogden Abbott, a Concord artist, who lived in the Daniel Chester French house on Sudbury Road.” Here in Florida, there is a Coral Springs Community Chest, which was founded in 1988. They are certainly helped by name association, though do not appear to be a United Way affiliate. And really, what good is a national organization anyway, when a Community Chest is supposed to be local. Interestingly, local Community Foundations have taken up the slack as United Way has struggled.

Many charities waste LOTS of effort on changing their name, when in reality, other changes are actually needed and the name change makes people think something new is happening. Often, what is “new is happening” is that the charity is out of touch.

When I served on the board of TheatreVirginia in Richmond, it had recently changed its name from the Virginia Museum Theater. Virginia Museum Theater was a LORT theater founded by the legendary Leslie Cheek inside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As name changes go, it was pretty good, as it used two of the same words in the re-name (though it did the “British” spelling of theatre). It almost worked. But our patrons, who were aging, ultimately didn’t get it. And because the the museum no longer felt connected to the theater, they eventually sent them packing. Not that they didn’t deserve it, but the name change didn’t do what was needed, which was to put on entertaining plays that weren’t didactic crap.

I was also involved with the William Byrd Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. The group merged with Historic Richmond Foundation. We kept the Historic Richmond name, but preserved the William Byrd name as the legal entity. That is often the best course for a charity that thinks it needs a new name. Begin casually calling it a “d/b/a” name or nickname, but keep the original legal name intact.

In Stuart, Florida, the charity Jesus House of Hope dropped the name Jesus from Jesus House of Hope. It, obviously, did not set well with the core donors, the local church! We don’t want to think of the theological implications of that convictionless name change! But we can say that the condition of the world is not good when the Greatest Name of All is no longer worthy of use.

Ideas? Comments? Add your comment below. Or contact the BrandlandUSA editor. We love to hear about old brands being revived, dead brands resuscitated or great brands in jeopardy. We will help spread the word. Click Here To Send E-mail

1 Comment

  1. Many of the United Way were Red Feathers, too. Some even when from Red Feather to Community Chest to United Way. United Way — It is that the local charities are united in their way of fundraising — but in my area they use to discourage donor designated donations and any other fund raising by the member charities (or even mention restrictions). I mean what is the point then. I consider launching a Community Chest in protest.

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