Naming Policy


Policy Summary

Naming opportunities exist to recognize the extraordinary generosity of individuals and entities whose support and service are valuable to the George Washington University’s (“GW” or the “university”) mission and community. Careful consideration, including proper vetting and consultation, should precede associating any name with the excellence and reputation of the university. This policy provides general guidelines for the approval of naming of physical and non-physical entities at the university and enumerates the naming opportunities requiring approval by the university’s Board of Trustees (“Board”) and administration.

Who is Governed by this Policy

  • Trustee
  • Alumni
  • Donors
  • Faculty
  • Students
  • Staff


A. Philanthropic Naming Opportunities and Approvals

  1. Philanthropic naming opportunities are available for physical and non-physical entities at GW. Decisions regarding such recognition are made in accordance with this policy and other applicable university policies and guidelines, including the Honorific Naming Guidelines, the Naming Approval Guidelines, the Gift Agreement Review Checklist, and the Named Gift Opportunities. If the gift does not meet these requirements, no naming opportunity will be offered to a donor unless an exception has been made pursuant to exceptions noted in this policy. Changes to the Naming Approval Guidelines must be approved by the officers of the university.
  2. All philanthropic namings must meet minimum thresholds outlined in the Named Gift Opportunities and be coordinated with the Office of Donor Relations within the Division of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR).
  3. Unrealized deferred gift commitments and split-interest gifts are not eligible for a physical naming opportunity. Unrealized deferred gift commitments and split-interest gifts may be used for non-physical naming opportunities but consideration should be given to the value of the gift, when it will be realized, and the future naming thresholds that will be required at that time. Realized deferred or split-interest gifts are eligible for a physical or non-physical naming opportunity.
  4. All philanthropic namings require a signed gift agreement prior to finalizing the naming opportunity. For all namings requiring Board approval, the gift agreement must be signed by the Secretary of the University to confirm that the Board’s approval was obtained. For a multiple-donor campaign in support of a naming opportunity, the board will approve the naming prior to a signed gift agreement.
  5. The gift agreement must be reviewed and the naming approved in accordance with the Gift Agreement Review Checklist and the Naming Approval Guidelines prior to presentation to the donor for signature.
  6. At all times, the university will consider all potential naming ramifications, financial and non-financial (e.g., public trust and reputational), relating to a gift, supported by due diligence reputational research on the donor. The university retains discretion to decline a naming opportunity for any reason.

B. Philanthropic Namings Requiring Board Approval

  1. The following naming opportunities, which potentially pose substantial reputational risk, require approval by the Board:
    • Buildings, structures, and public spaces (e.g., courtyards, plazas, athletic facilities such as courts and fields)
    • Schools, departments, units, centers, institutes, and programs
    • Academic positions, including deanships, department heads, and professorships
    • Any other naming opportunity deemed by university administration to pose substantial reputational risk, upon recommendation of the president and the vice president for development and alumni relations

C. Philanthropic Namings Requiring Administration Approval

  1. The following naming opportunities, including but not limited to those below, require approval by university administration in accordance with the Naming Approval Guidelines:
    • Interior spaces, rooms, objects, features, collections, and equipment
    • Landscaping (e.g., trees, shrubs, and other plantings)
    • Lecture series, lectureships, faculty research fellowships, department funds, awards, student scholarships, and fellowships

D. Publicity and Administration of Namings

  1. The use of functional names for physical space is highly discouraged, as functions within a physical space may change over time. Examples of functional names are Jones Computer Lab or the Smith Study Room.
  2. All naming opportunities may be publically acknowledged once the gift agreement has been signed.

E. Honorific Naming

The university may bestow honorific naming in recognition of the dedication or meritorious contribution of an individual. The criteria and process for honorific naming are outlined in the Honorific Naming Guidelines.

F. Naming of Corporations, Foundations, or Other Organizations

  1. To avoid any appearance of commercial influence or conflict of interest, due diligence should be undertaken before recommending the naming of a physical or non-physical entity that involves the name of a corporation, corporate foundation, or organization.
  2. In the event the name of a corporation, corporate foundation, or organization has changed due to restructuring, merger or acquisition, the naming shall remain intact as long as the terms of the gift agreement and gift payments are honored by the successor organization.

G. Limitations on Philanthropic and Honorific Namings

The university affirms its commitment to donors and honorees to esteem their legacy and historical connection to GW. A naming shall generally be for the useful life of the building or structure and in the case of a school, institute, center, program, endowment, or similar item for so long as the school, etc., is in existence. The foregoing may be qualified or modified by the terms of the gift agreement. The duration of an honorific naming is based on specific terms approved by the Board or university administration (see the Honorific Naming Guidelines).

  1. If, at any time after acceptance of a gift, the Board determines, based on recommendation by university administration, that (i) it has become impossible or impractical for the gift to serve the specific purpose for which it was donated, or (ii) the terms of this agreement have become inconsistent with university policy or contrary to law, the Board will approve a redirection of the funds, taking into consideration the original purpose of the gift. The gift agreement shall state the aforesaid discretion of the Board. Donors or their heirs will be contacted, where possible, and any changes to a gift allocation(s) will be consistent with the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA).
  2. In appropriate instances, most often involving a corporate sponsor, a naming may be granted for a pre-determined fixed term. At the end of the term, the name of the facility or program shall expire but may be renewed with the same or a new name and additional giving. The gift agreement should clearly specify the period of time for which the facility or program will be named.

H. Revoking a Philanthropic or Honorific Naming

The university reserves the right to revoke a naming if one of the following conditions occurs:

  1. A donor does not fulfill a pledge obligation as outlined in the gift agreement including, but not limited to, failing to make installments as scheduled in the gift agreement.
  2. The Board determines that the continued use of the name may compromise the public trust or reputation of the university. The process for revocation of a naming for these reasons is found in the Naming Task Force Renaming Framework.

If the university chooses to revoke a naming based on one or more of these conditions, the university has the right to retain funds previously contributed.

I. Changing a Name at Donor Request

If a donor requests a change to the naming associated with a physical or non-physical entity (e.g., due to marriage or divorce), the university will consider the request. If approved by university administration in accordance with the Naming Approval Guidelines, all replacement signage and other related costs shall be at the donor’s expense.

J. Exceptions

Any exception to this policy must be in accordance with the Naming Approval Guidelines.


Gift Agreement: An agreement reviewed and signed by a donor, the president or his designee, and the appropriate administrative officer (provost, vice president, or dean), confirming the mutual promises, commitments, undertakings, restrictions and agreements of the involved parties pertaining to a gift to the university. Formerly known as a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU.

UPMIFA: The Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) is a uniform act that provides guidance on investment decisions and endowment expenditures for nonprofit and charitable organizations.

Related Information

Named Gift Opportunities

Honorific Naming Guidelines

Naming Approval Guidelines

Gift Agreement Review Checklist

Naming Task Force Renaming Framework


Contact Phone Number Email Address
Gail Ferris 202-994-8954 [email protected]
Jen Riordan 202-994-9432 [email protected]


Responsible University Official: Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations
Responsible Office: Development and Alumni Relations

Last Revised: May 2021


Non-compliance with this policy can be reported through this website.