How To Re-Brand a Century Old Non-Profit

Preservation VirginiaRICHMOND – I am a bit partial to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. They saved Jamestown Island, began the effort to save Williamsburg and have saved hundreds of historic houses across the state with their many affiliate groups. They have been a strong and potent advocate for quality of life issues in Virginia since their founding in 1889.

But they do need to keep current. And they face the same issue that so many other generations old legacy brands face, namely how do they keep current while not losing the history that gives them credibility. They recently did it with a new seal; a simple round circle with APVA 1889 in the middle and the name Preservation Virginia around the outside.

Clear and direct. Classic. Straightforward.


They did not do this change over night. They slowly evolved their name from Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities to a simple Preservation Virginia. I still call them APVA and many folk still do, but that’s OK; they don’t call the brand police on me like so many big companies that are doing name changes. Instead, they keep their legal name APVA and then are d/b/a Preservation Virginia as shorthand. It is much the same approach that Proctor & Gamble had with its moon and stars logo. They never really gave it up, just took it off the products, and used it for corporate reasons (it seems to have completely diminished over the years though).

With Preservation Virginia as a name, it helps that they used the two words from APVA in their new name.There wasn’t really a change, just an evolution. Indeed for decades, their logo was the letters APVA over three ships in Jamestown. Not too bad, but it branded them as just Jamestown, when they are really the “National Trust” of Virginia.

Keeping the old name as the legal name is an excellent solution for non-profits. Things like URLs often change when organizations re-brand, and changing URLs is a big no-no for search engines. Also, if you change the legal name, there are all sorts of issues with legal fees, donor registries and gifts committees of charitable trusts, that all like to see things stay consistent. So it is better, if you absolutely think you need to rebrand, to evolve with d/b/a a nickname, and leave the past be. Actually, the best thing is not to change at all, if you can avoid it.

The answer is so simple, we wonder how many other non-profits don’t do it. We have a sense; there is a natural constituency for change, as many ad agencies make money off it. But even more than that, changing a name or doing a major brand change allows a non-profit leader the ability to think they are doing something, and yet doing very little. It’s navel gazing, and its stupid, though it is fun, we admit, to talk about logos.

The logo was done by a team including Andy Williams (formerly with Williams Whittle) Tina Calhoun (Preservation Virginia marketing director) and Adam Mead of The Creative System. They also used a class at Virginia Commonwealth University for some testing.

There are actually two parts to the new brand architecture, a main brand image, seen on their website, and the seal seen at the top of the page. The seal goes in brochures, signs and other promotional materials as a way of indicating “official Preservation Virginia” efforts.

We also see a future with the logo for any merchandise sold by the APVA, either souvenirs at places like Jamestown, or even reproductions of its furniture, fabric and colors. Since Colonial Willamsburg has really junked up their reproductions line, we hope APVA can step into the void.



  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Garland. Discovered your site while googling for a 1999 VA Business article on Jamestown re-branding that is linked no more. I had noticed the name change via Facebook and it is good to see that APVA made the jump to something more contemporary. If you’re interested, Andy Williams has been encouraging APVA to leverage their properties in more contemporary brand and persona terms since that 98-99 period when I was a Partner and Creative Director at Williams Whittle. Some of the work, as well as look at the old logo for your readers’ comparison can be seen here:

    Best, Mark

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