For many philanthropists, the question of what to name the foundation raises personal and potentially profound issues about motivations and aspirations. Do you want your foundation to bear your family name, forging a link between your philanthropy and your heritage? Would you prefer a name such as The Foundation for Child Welfare that emphasizes your mission instead of your identity?

You might find that this relatively straightforward and necessary assignment, to pick an official name for your foundation, sets the tone for subsequent decisions.

Before you get started, you should know that there are some ground rules for the name game: The names of private foundation corporations (including public charities and for-profit companies) are regulated on a state-by-state basis, so where you choose to incorporate is important. For example, Delaware, a preferred state of incorporation, requires that both for-profit and nonprofit corporation names end in one of the following 16 words or abbreviations: Association, Company, Co., Corporation, Corp., Club, Foundation, Fund, Incorporated, Inc., Institute, Limited, Ltd., Society, Syndicate, or Union.

Most states will not allow two corporations to have the same official name. Corporate names are given out on a first-come, first-served basis, although some states have a mechanism to reserve a name for a period of time. Even if your preferred foundation name is already spoken for, there is still the possibility that you could use the name of your choice under the concept of “doing business as,” sometimes also called a trade name.

Aside from these basic constraints, there are other important considerations that may influence your choice.