Now You Can Buy Naming Rights To Toilet Paper, Tuna Cans, And Other Everyday Objects–For A Good Cause

To fund its work, a homeless aid organization is auctioning off a slice of immortality at an affordable price. Renamed items so far: the “Kate DeMayo Pacifier of Astounding Silence” and the “JoJo P Underwear of Esteem.”

Why attach your name to a building or a stadium when immortality beckons as a stove, baby wipe, tampon, or even a memorial can of tuna?


Now is your chance. The naming rights for everyday items at the Urban Ministries of Durham are up or grabs at the site Names for Change, a campaign to raise money for the Ministries’ everyday work of helping the homeless in North Carolina achieve independent productive lives.

“The work they do is not sexy or glamorous, but it is fundamental stuff that we all take for granted,” says Jenny Nicholson of the McKinney creative agency in Durham, which orchestrated the campaign. (In previous work, covered in Fast Company, Nicholson also designed a video game that forced players to confront the hard decisions facing the poor). At Names for Change, users can visit the site, pick from hundreds of items that help their clients “connect to food, shelter, and a future,” and bestow their name upon them.

No item is too small. While companies such as Levi’s recently shelled out $220 million to christen the new 49ers football stadium, you can do the same for a can of corn ($2), a wooden pencil ($3), a toilet plunger ($20), or even the most expensive item, the Ministries’ resourceful chef, for just a cool $25,000. The priciest naming rights sold so far cost $1,250 for the stove, while the most popular items are crayons, light bulbs, pacifiers, and toilet paper.

Nicholson says it was about more than just throwing a few items on the site. Carefully designing the experience so it became clear that each item, no matter how mundane, played a key role in someone’s life, was vital.

“That’s one of the ideas behind this. The little things we have we take for granted, when you don’t have them, they can be the biggest thing in the word,” says Nicholson. “All the things are important. The tooth brush is as important as the fridge for someone who hasn’t brushed their teeth in a week.”

In lieu of a plaque, those who name an item get a digital poster to share with their friends through social media, which drives still more donations. Among the renamed items that have debuted on the site include the “Souter Shack Deodorant of Clean Starts,” the “Kate DeMayo Pacifier of Astounding Silence,” and the “JoJo P Underwear of Esteem.”


There is of course the satisfaction that your money paid for a little bit of someone’s future. In the first weeks, the Ministries has raised about $20,000–enough, it says, to get at least three people out of homelessness.

About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment.