One nonprofit asks another to change its name to avoid confusion among donors
What’s in a name, really? Some in the local nonprofit world would say millions of dollars worth of identity — at least in the “Aspen Valley,” which technically doesn’t exist here.
The network of charitable giving in the Roaring Fork Valley can be confusing, since there are at least a half dozen local nonprofits that have in their name one or more of the following word descriptors: “Aspen,” “valley” or “foundation.”
And apparently it has become a significant enough problem for the Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) that it has asked a fellow nonprofit with a similar mission to change its name to avoid confusion among donors.
Kris Marsh, president and CEO of Aspen Valley Foundation (AVF), said she met with her board of directors on Tuesday and discussed ACF’s request to change the name of the nonprofit, which is dedicated to the health and well-being of area residents.
The AVF board hasn’t made a decision, she said, but is considering the request.
Tamara Tormohlen, executive director of ACF, said she and her board have asked AVF representatives for a name change because “several of our donors and other community members expressed confusion between the name Aspen Valley Foundation and Aspen Community Foundation.”
Marsh’s organization already has changed its name once — last fall it dropped the word “medical” from its title after it split off from Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH). It had been the hospital’s main fundraising arm since 1973. The then Aspen Valley Medical Foundation had granted $9.4 million for the hospital since 1999, and had raised an additional $12.5 million for the expansion of the health care facility, which is under construction and is in phase two of four.
The hospital created its own foundation — the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation (AVHF) — last year to focus on a $60 million philanthropic campaign to raise money to cover the costs of phases three and four of the health care facility’s expansion.
And ACF, which has a mission that includes building charitable funds for organizations, is collecting donor money on behalf of AVHF while it seeks its tax exempt status. It also collects money for a variety of other endeavors and nonprofits aimed at improving the quality of life for community members.
Tormohlen said shortly after the medical foundation became the Aspen Valley Foundation in November of 2012, people started asking why ACF had changed its name. In addition, there has been misdirected mail and rsvp’s; verbal references to the medical foundation when the community foundation was intended; a grant request directed to ACF meant for AVF; and most recently a gift directed to ACF with the check made out to AVF, Tormohlen said.
Tormohlen said dropping the descriptor word “medical” makes the AVF name generic.
“One way or another, a great many donors and community members have been confused by the name change,” she said via email.
While its name has changed, AVF’s mission remains the same: to raise money for health and human services and nonprofits related to health care in the valley, including funding for suicide prevention, drug and alcohol treatment, senior citizen issues and direct assistance for uninsured individuals, among other things.
ACF also has gone through a set of name changes over the years as its funding mechanisms were altered and the mission tweaked.
“Over our 33 years we’ve been known as Aspen Foundation and Aspen Valley Community Foundation, so it’s understandable that Aspen Valley Medical Foundation’s name change might make for some confusion,” Tormohlen said via email. “The confusion with the names has prompted friendly conversation between the two organizations about how we might clarify the question.”
There have been a series of meetings between representatives of both organizations regarding a name change.
When asked what would happen if AVF doesn’t change its name, Tormohlen said she doesn’t know yet.
“I truly don’t know,” she said. “Somehow we need to reduce the confusion that clearly exists in the minds of donors and community members.”
ACF’s mission is to build philanthropy and support nonprofit organizations by connecting donors to community needs, and building charitable funds that serve the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys.
Confusing matters more, at least for those who aren’t keyed into the local nonprofit world, there are other organizations with similar names — the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, the Aspen Education Foundation and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
But those are different and specific, Tormohlen countered.
“You mention AVSC, AEF, AWF, all of which include words that uniquely identify the organization as serving a specific area, i.e. skiing/snowboarding, education, and writing,” she wrote via email. “The name Aspen Community Foundation reflects a standard, place-based title for a community foundation, of which there are 700 in the country. As I mentioned previously, over our 33 years we’ve been known as Aspen Foundation and Aspen Valley Community Foundation, and many of our long-time donors and community members remember this.”