Policy 5103
Naming Opportunities

Date of Current Revision: March 2018
Primary Responsible Officer: Vice President of University Advancement


This policy establishes guidelines for naming the university’s permanent physical facilities, outdoor and interior areas and spaces, as well as its administrative and academic units, endowments and programs in recognition of donors who have made significant gifts supporting the mission of the university.  The policy’s overarching objectives are to establish and maintain a system to ensure that decisions on naming opportunities are made in a logical, consistent and timely manner; that the requirements, expectations, and desires of all parties are respected; and that naming actions will not detract from the institution's values, integrity, or reputation.  In order to address considerations specific to physical and non-physical entities, this policy includes separate sections pertaining to naming opportunities for each.


The Board of Visitors has been authorized by the Commonwealth of Virginia to govern James Madison University. See Code of Virginia § 23.1-1600; § 23.1-1301. The Board has delegated the authority to manage the university to the president.


Academic Unit:
An academic department, school or the functional equivalent, as determined by the Provost. For the purposes of this policy, it refers collectively to academic institutes, centers, departments and schools within the Division of Academic Affairs.

Fundraising Endeavor:
Like gift agreements, endeavors are efforts to raise a specified amount for a specified purpose over a pre-defined period of time.  Endeavors are unlike gift agreements because they are efforts in which no donor or group of donors commit themselves to the fulfillment of that intended dollar amount.

Gift Acceptance Committee:
The committee established under the Gift Acceptance Policy to review, consult with stakeholders and evaluate gifts terms (particularly those gifts that involve extended pledge payment terms or the transfer of assets other than cash or marketable securities), and the alignment with university mission. The Gift Acceptance Policy can be found on the JMU Foundation’s website.

Naming Opportunity:
For purposes of this policy, a naming opportunity is defined as any occasion when a specific name, beyond a merely functional description or designation, may be bestowed upon a facility, space or place, a college or school, an institute, center, program, or any other unit of the university, or upon an endowment or other support fund created for the benefit of the students and faculty of James Madison University.

Physical Entity: 
Any building constructed or to be constructed, physical structure, facility, outdoor or indoor space, feature and/or object owned by the university.

Restricted Gift to Endowment:
Gifts establishing or adding to endowment funds of the JMU Foundation by donor direction, from which the income is limited to specific purposes or programs.


This policy applies to all JMU facilities, buildings, outdoor and indoor areas and spaces, and academic units, as well as to endowments and programs, regardless of location or administrative assignment. The Division of University Advancement is the central point of contact by virtue of its relationships with all constituent groups of the university, and its role in maintaining the image and communications functions of the university.


The president has delegated responsibility for the management of all naming opportunities to the vice president for university advancement.  Employees who wish to name buildings, spaces and physical entities in honor of distinguished faculty, staff, alumni or friends without an associated gift or donation must make that nomination by submitting a request in writing to the vice president for university advancement.

Furthermore, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) requires submission and approval of any name changes proposed by an academic program, unit or college.  That submission process is managed by the provost’s office.

The following policy and procedural steps outline how to submit requests for naming any academic or programmatic unit, physical entity or spaces and/or parts thereof and applies to all employees of the university.

5.1. General Rules

  • When a naming opportunity arises, strong preference shall be given to persons who have distinguished, close, and valued association with James Madison University, including teachers, administrators, and supportive alumni and donors.
  • Employees are considered open for consideration after a period of three years from the end of employment at the university. Exceptions may be granted by the president or board of visitors in special circumstances.
  • One gift will be recognized with only one naming opportunity per commitment, typically after not less than 50% of the amount has been paid.
  • Once a building has been named, in honor of someone or by a naming gift, the name shall not be changed for the life of the building, unless there are unusual or compelling reasons for changing the name including, but not limited to, the right to re-name if a designated name should bring discredit upon JMU.
  • All gift agreements and the succeeding payments on the associated pledge that establish an endowment must have the following terms in writing:
    • The amount of the gift.
    • The duration of the pledge term and the date(s) of annual payments.
    • The purpose, designation and recognition of the gift.
    • The method of payment and/or pledge fulfillment (personal, donor advised fund, personal/family foundation, etc.).
    • Permissions for alternative purposes of distribution should the benefitting program cease to exist.
    • Gift reinvestment will be assessed on all donations directed to name physical entities, but not to gifts made to endow deferred maintenance.
    • The vice president for university advancement and the chief executive officer of the James Madison University Foundation must approve and sign all gift and naming agreements before execution of the naming can commence.

5.2 Naming a Physical Entity

5.2.1  General Guidelines for Naming Physical Entities

5.2.1.a  Approvals
The vice president for university advancement must approve and disseminate all gift levels for any non-athletic capital project or physical entity before it can be named and/or before any person or organization can be recognized with this honor.  The senior vice president for administration and finance must approve and disseminate all gift levels for athletics facilities, spaces or physical entities.  Because the capital projects and gift levels are subject to change, employees wishing to access the most current listing of gift-level pricings for capital projects or physical entities should contact the vice president for university advancement or, for athletic gift levels, the associate athletic director for athletics fundraising.

5.2.1.b  Gift Levels
Gift levels for physical entities vary, based on the following factors:

  • Whether purpose is for new construction or an existing facility.
  • The size, scope, and private-funding requirement of a construction project.
  • Comparisons of current funding requirements with previous gifts made and giving levels established for building projects or named structures across campus.
  • The public visibility and perceived market value of the physical entity under consideration for naming.

5.2.1.c  Pledge Duration
Donors who pledge to donate funds and receive recognition benefits to name a physical entity must commit to complete the payment no more than five years from the date of gift agreement. In some circumstances, and only with the authorization of the university’s vice president for university advancement, a pledge payment schedule may exceed five (5) years.  When the physical entity to be named is part of a new capital project, the senior vice president for administration and finance must also approve exceptions to the pledge duration standard.

5.2.2  Appropriation of private, charitable funds raised in excess of capital project minimum
In the event that the university raises and receives cash in excess of the capital project’s fundraising minimum total need, the president will allocate excess dollars as deemed most beneficial to the project and/or the university.

5.2.3  Appropriation of private, charitable donations raised for existing facilities and spaces
In instances when a gift recognized with the naming of a building or space does not directly offset renovation or construction expenses, such as naming an already-existing building, the vice president for university advancement will consult with the president and the senior leadership team to determine the most beneficial allocation of these funds for the university.

5.2.4  Naming for a Corporation or Organization
The university will consider naming a facility, building, outdoor or indoor area or space for a corporation or organization whose gifts represent a substantial contribution toward the cost of a particular project, or when the corporation or organization has significantly advanced the university in other ways deemed to merit such recognition. Corporate naming sponsorships (vs. philanthropic gifts) must first be approved by the vice president for university advancement and comply with the JMU Foundation Sponsorship Policy.

5.2.5  Signage
Once the gift terms, naming opportunity and pledge payments are accepted, the standard signage will appear in university-approved lettering and wording and on university maps and other documents as appropriate.  Corporate logos will be permitted pursuant to Section 5.2.4. All donor signage should be coordinated with the office of donor relations.

5.2.6  Temporary Naming Rights for Spaces
The university may enter into agreements with individuals or business entities to temporarily name facilities, places or spaces when a contribution to the university meets or exceeds naming levels for the physical entity or capital project as outlined section 5.2.1.b. The university officer seeking a temporary naming right for a physical entity at JMU on behalf of a corporation or organization must receive approval from the vice president for university advancement before making any agreements (written or verbal) with the organization.  The senior vice president for administration and finance and the Gift Acceptance Committee will also review and must approve the terms of the naming rights before those rights can be granted. Contract signing should be pursuant to university policy 4100.

5.3  Naming Non-Physical Entities (endowments or awards)

5.3.1  Gift levels for endowments, awards and non-physical entities in support of students, faculty and university programs are established and approved by the vice president for university advancement.  Schedules listing approved funding levels are available by contacting the office of the vice president for university advancement or, for athletics funding levels, by contacting the associate athletic director for athletic fundraising.

5.3.2  Proposals inviting gifts at the highest endowment naming levels (e.g. to name an academic unit) must be approved individually by the president prior to presentation (verbal or written) to the donor.

5.3.3  All agreements to name an endowment or award are considered contracts between the donor, the university and the university foundation. In order for donors or honorees to be properly recognized and the terms of the recognition agreement properly executed, these agreements must be written in accordance with the general rules, section 5.1, and then signed by the donor, the university and the university foundation as outlined in the JMU Foundation Gift Acceptance Policy, which can be found on the JMU Foundation website.

5.4  Types of Endowments

5.4.1  Naming Endowments and Managing Endowment Funds

5.4.1.a  Restrictions: When a donor commits to fund an endowment for any purpose, s/he is granted the privilege of naming it. In addition to naming rights, endowment commitments of $25,000 are also granted the right to have one restriction, such as to a college, academic/programmatic unit or athletics. Commitments of $50,000 or greater are granted the right to restrict the purpose of the gift with more than one (1) restriction. Faculty and staff, however, who make personal commitments to endow a gift may name and restrict the endowment with more than one (1) restriction for $25,000 or greater. All restrictions must abide by university, university foundation, state and federal guidelines.

5.4.1.b  Approval for Restrictions: When the potential donor of an endowment gift wishes to restrict the award to an initiative not previously identified as a fundraising priority, the university development officer managing the donor relationship must review with and receive written approval of the gift terms from the provost and the academic unit head or college dean responsible for administering the gift before the gift proposal is presented to the potential donor for signature.

5.4.1.b.1  Responsibility for Expenditures: Once the gift has been accepted and the terms executed, the academic or organizational unit head or college dean or their designee is responsible for ensuring expenditures are consistent with the terms of the agreement, administering the gift in accordance with donor intent, and contacting annually the director of donor relations with award information (amount, recipient’s name, etc.).

5.4.1.b.2  Investment of funds: Endowment gifts will be invested in the James Madison University Foundation (JMUF) for the use of the university, as detailed in the gift agreement.  The investment, management, and expenditure of funds will be in accordance with JMUF and university policies and procedures.

5.4.2    General Endowments
General endowments give the university and its academic and administrative units maximum flexibility to enhance their respective programs. Purposes for these funds may include, but are not limited to: unrestricted or broadly-defined support, library collections, student travel, equipment, curriculum development, support for research or any other purpose of interest to the donor and approved by the recipient unit.

5.4.3  Scholarships, Fellowships and Other Endowments Supporting Students
The selection of scholarship and fellowship recipients will be consistent with donor intent as articulated in the endowment gift agreement. Donors may not participate in the selection process.  University Advancement, in conjunction with the University Foundation, will provide donors with annual reports about fund balances and the students who have benefited from their gifts. 

5.4.4  Chairs, Professorships and Other Endowments Supporting Faculty
Chairs and professorships may be used to fund in total or as a supplement to the base salaries of faculty members.  Likewise, chairs and professorships (as well as faculty fellowships and other categories of support) may provide professional support for the activities of faculty members appointed to the endowed position, including, but not restricted to, research assistance, travel, and staff support. 

5.5. Naming Administrative Units and Academic Programs, Units and Colleges
Naming actions for administrative or academic units by individuals, families, corporations or other entities (E.g. Jones College of Business) will be approved by the president on the recommendation of the vice president for university advancement, prior to the proposal being presented to the donor. Proposals to name academic units must be reviewed and approved by the provost, before review by the vice president for university advancement.

SCHEV policy requires all organizational changes to academic programs, units or colleges, including changes of name, be submitted and approved before changes may take effect.  This review may affect the timing of the name change.  The Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs will coordinate SCHEV review process.


6.1   Approval Process

6.1.1  Naming opportunities proposed for persons who have a distinguished, close and valued association with James Madison University (e.g., faculty, administrators, staff or other honorees) without an associated philanthropic gift require special approval. Nominations for such namings must be submitted to the vice president for university advancement for consideration. The president and senior leadership team will review such proposals, with the president then making decisions on all honorific namings, with the exception of buildings.

6.1.1.a  For honorific building namings, the president will make recommendations for consideration and approval by the board of visitors. 

6.1.1.b  All namings may be granted or removed at the sole discretion of the president or board of visitors, as the case may be.

6.1.2  Advancement encourages conversations between university employees and potential donors about giving opportunities and philanthropic interests at the university. The university employee engaging in such conversations is required to share the content of those conversations with the appropriate development officer or advancement executive, in order for the institution to maintain official donor records and to coordinate donor strategies across campus in accordance with Policy 5101 – Private Fundraising.

6.1.3  The Division of University Advancement, specifically the associate vice president for advancement planning and operations, will maintain the university’s official records of all open-naming opportunities, as well as all names already in use by the university.  Once a naming has been formally approved, the Division of University Advancement shall coordinate notification to all appropriate parties.

6.2  Approved Record for Naming Opportunities

6.2.1  Proposals offering naming opportunities to prospective donors will refer to the record of open-naming opportunities and gift levels that have been approved by the vice president for university advancement.

6.2.2  When gifts are intended to name non-physical entities such as endowments supporting students and faculty, no additional approval is required.  However, the development officer initiating such a proposal is required to review other details within the agreement (e.g. purpose, restrictions requested by the donor, etc.) with the academic or administrative officer charged with administering the gift prior to submitting a finalized gift agreement to the donor.

6.2.3  In instances where the approved record of naming opportunities allows for consideration of a range of giving levels (e.g., for major capital gifts, or for academic and administrative units), a naming proposal will be submitted to a donor only after the giving level has been approved by the vice president for university advancement in consultation with the president.

6.3  Matching Gifts and Naming Opportunities

6.3.1  Matching gifts are given at the discretion of a corporate entity and not at the discretion of the donor; therefore, corporate matching gifts may not be used in pledge agreements to reach a naming level for a capital project or endowment.  Matching gifts may be considered to supplement a donor’s personal commitment and to be calculated when the donor wishes to reserve a naming opportunity for a capital project only when the following conditions apply:

6.3.1.a  When, as part of the gift agreement, the donor agrees to fulfill the gift at the full naming level in the event matching gifts are not received and/or not received towards the gift’s specific purpose.

6.3.1.b  The use of matching gifts is consistent with existing university and university foundation policies and guidelines.

6.3.1.c  The vice president for university advancement approves of the exception in the use of matching gifts.

6.3.1.d  The exception is approved in order to achieve naming for capital projects only, OR

6.3.2  The corporate entity signs a separate agreement with the university agreeing to match a specified amount for the donor to the specific naming opportunity without corporate naming conditions for those matching gift.

6.4   Deferred Gift Commitments and Naming Opportunities

6.4.1  Conditions for conferring a naming on the basis of a deferred-gift commitment vary,  depending on whether a physical or non-physical entity is being named, and when the naming is to be conferred.

6.4.2  Naming thresholds will increase over time.  Future namings made on the basis of deferred gifts (e.g. bequests) will be conferred only if the gift meets the criteria in place for the specified purpose when the gift is eventually received unless otherwise approved by the vice president for university advancement.

6.4.3  A present-day naming opportunity may be reserved and named based on a gift commitment that defers payment (i.e., with a will commitment or deferred-gift vehicle) to a date more than five years from the agreement date only when the following conditions apply: 

6.4.3.a  The donor appropriately documents that his or her commitment is irrevocable or makes a revocable gift in tandem with an outright gift, aligned with current naming levels.

6.4.3.b  The gift is not required for immediate use by the university (e.g. to complete a construction project, or for the immediate expansion of the programs of the benefiting unit).

6.4.3.c  Actuarial and financial calculations indicate the net present value of the donor’s commitment (i.e. its value in today’s dollars) will be no less than if an outright gift in the full amount of the naming value were received today.

6.4.3.d  The vice president for university advancement determines the conditions of the gift are beneficial to the university.

6.5  Group Endeavors and Naming Opportunities

6.5.1  Group fundraising endeavors are not accepted by the university and university foundation, except in cases where the following conditions apply:

6.5.1.a  The unit head benefiting from the endeavor (sponsor) works with the Director of Annual Giving to develop a marketing and solicitation plan.

6.5.1.b    The director of annual giving approves of the endeavor’s terms and the sponsor’s marketing and solicitation plans.

6.5.1.c  The endeavor solicitation plan documents a list of donors and the amounts they intend to commit.

6.5.1.d  The endeavor solicitation plan documents a fallback allocation for the funds, in the event it does not reach full funding threshold.

6.5.1.e  The duration of the endeavor is no more than five years.

6.5.1.f.  The endeavor donors agree to forego individual naming recognitions associated with the gift (honor roll excluded) and to the terms of the endeavor, in the event it does not reach full funding.


The president gives the vice president for university advancement the responsibility and authority to ensure that the guidelines of this policy are respected university-wide.

The Division of University Advancement is responsible for the administration of this policy. The vice president for university advancement may delegate responsibility within the division to ensure the policy and procedures are carried out in an efficient and effective manner.

The Division of Academic Affairs is responsible for review of naming opportunities of academic programs, units and colleges.  The Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs is responsible for coordinating the SCHEV submission and review process.


Any violation of this policy may subject the individual to discipline, commensurate with the severity and/or frequency of the offense, and may include termination of employment.




Authority to interpret and apply this policy rests with the president and is generally delegated to the vice president for university advancement.

Previous version:  February 2006
Approved by the President:  February 2006

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