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Author: Theresa Rizzuto

owl beside text that reads frequently asked questions about our name change proposal


At our next annual membership meeting on May 2nd, 2024, the New Hope Audubon board of directors will be calling for a membership vote to change our name to New Hope Bird Alliance. Read on to learn more about our decision, along with frequently asked questions from our members.

Why is NHAS leadership proposing a name change now?

There is an ongoing conversation within the Audubon community about the complicated legacy of John James Audubon and whether continuing to use his name impedes creating a more inclusive and diverse community. After a year of studying the issue, The National Audubon Society announced on March 15th that they will not be dropping Audubon from their name. Many state and local Audubon chapters, which are all separate 501(c)3 and thus can independently determine if they want to change their names, are currently undergoing a process to determine whether they want to keep or change their names. 

Twenty-one chapters have already voted to change their name (see list later in FAQs). According to the National Audubon Society, John James Audubon enslaved Black people, wrote critically about emancipation; stole human remains and sent the skulls to a colleague who used them to assert that whites were superior to non-whites; and committed academic fraud and plagiarism. Many people find it offensive that we would continue using his name for our organization given this legacy. It is a disservice to our mission.

What process was used to get input from membership and the community?

We surveyed our members in the Fall of 2023; we communicated with other Audubon local and state chapters in person and at the National meeting in November; and talked with members and partners, including leaders of minority-led groups. We waited in hopes that other, larger chapters would coalesce around naming conventions that we would be comfortable joining with. We are pleased to say that as of this date, we know of 11 that have the following similar names (see below).

How did you come up with the new name?

New Hope Audubon Society was named, at its founding, after prominent geographic features in our area of Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties. These included the New Hope River, formed by the confluence of New Hope Creek and Morgan Creek, and the New Hope Valley. The river and valley now lie under Jordan Lake, originally to be named New Hope Lake. We chose New Hope for our new name for continuity with our old name and for natural features that united our 3 county area.

Our new proposed name is made up of the following 3 criteria: 

  1. Location: Keeping “New Hope” is a strong reference to the New Hope River, (which many things in our area are named for) is part of our branding, and the vast majority of names our Board members suggested included it. We
    a creek with rushing water and rocks

    New Hope Creek

    agreed unanimously to propose that our new name start with “New Hope.”

  2. Replacing Audubon with “bird” – We define ourselves as a bird conservation organization for our tri-county area. We share National Audubon’s mission of protecting birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.” Of the 14 Audubon chapters that have already changed their name, all but one used the word bird in their new name. Thus, this seemed the most descriptive single word for what we are all about.
  3. The word “alliance” – We can only accomplish our mission by continuing to foster and expand strong alliances with other conservation organizations in our area and State. The word “alliance” is well-understood and describes the way in which we partner with many other groups and other Audubon chapters for the defense and support of birds and bird habitats. Nine Audubon chapters that have picked a new name chose “Bird Alliance” as part of it, in a growing trend toward a new brand.
bluebird logo with text new hope bird alliance together for nature

The above revised logo is not final, and is intended to provide an example of how our new proposed name and a possible tagline might look.

Thus, we have agreed on New Hope Bird Alliance for our proposed new name. Because New Hope Audubon advocates for so much more than just birds, we’ve also decided to employ a tagline, which is still to be decided. 

The above tagline “Together for Nature” is only an example of what a tagline might look like. A final tagline is still to be determined, and this is something we hope to finalize after receiving community input. If the membership approves our name change proposal, we will likely revisit the logo for a full refresh.


Are there examples of other Audubon chapters around the country changing their names?

Yes! A total of 22 chapters have chosen to drop “Audubon” from their names, nation-wide.

Those changed to a variation of Bird Alliance:

  1. Golden Gate Bird Alliance (San Francisco)
  2. Detroit Bird Alliance
  3. Chicago Bird Alliance
  4. Southern Wisconsin Bird Alliance (formerly Madison Audubon and briefly Badgerland Bird Alliance until similarly named group complained)
  5. Mount Diablo Bird Alliance – (San Francisco Bay Area’s central and eastern Contra Costa County)
  6. Bird Alliance of Oregon (formerly Portland Audubon)
  7. Bird Alliance of Central New Mexico
  8. Grand Prairie Bird Alliance (formerly JWP Audubon Society – covering Central Illinois)
  9. Lawrence Bird Alliance (formerly Jayhawk Audubon in Kansas)
  10. Tahoma Bird Alliance (formerly Tahoma Audubon Society, Washington State)
  11. Washtenaw Bird and Nature Alliance (formerly Washtenaw Audubon of Ann Arbor, MI)

Those changing from Audubon to other names: 

  1. Nature Forward (formerly Audubon Naturalist Society)
  2. Birds Connect Seattle (formerly Seattle Audubon Society)
  3. Birds Georgia (formerly Audubon Georgia and before that Atlanta Audubon Society)
  4. Shasta Birding Society (formerly Wintu Audubon Society (California)

Those voting to drop Audubon from their name but have not picked a new name yet:

  1. NYC Audubon
  2. DC Audubon Society
  3. Audubon Society of Northern Virginia
  4. San Diego Audubon Society
  5. Buffalo Audubon Society
  6. Sacramento Audubon Society
  7. Audubon Society of Northern Virginia
  8. South Bend-Elkhart Audubon Society (Indiana)

Will our Chapter continue to be affiliated with the National Audubon Society?

Yes. We will still be affiliated and receive the same support and connectivity with the National Audubon Society. 

What percent of the membership must approve the proposal for the name to change?

For the name change to be approved, we require a simple majority of participants to “approve” the change at our annual official membership meeting on May 2nd, 2024.

If the name change is approved, what happens next?

It will put in motion an official process, starting with the NHAS Board making our new name official with the NC Secretary of State, followed by refreshing our new logo, tagline, merch, etc. Our hope is to also use our name change as an opportunity to strengthen our outreach to diverse communities. 

What happens to the organization’s name if the new name is NOT approved?

Our name remains as it is now: New Hope Audubon Society.

How will the vote occur May 2nd?

Members in good standing who attend in person or online via Zoom will vote on the following at our annual meeting on May 2nd, 2024.

  1. Annual election of Officers.
  • As per our Bylaws, we will take a “yay” or “nay” voice vote on the slate of officers put forward by the Nominating committee (in-person and on-line, the same).

–         In-person: voice vote.

–         Online: either a voice vote or raise of hand, details still TBD.

  1. Changing of our name and Constitution/Bylaws.

–         In-person process: Anonymous paper ballot

–         Online process: Anonymous poll on Zoom

How can I publicly state my opinion about the name change proposal?

There will be an opportunity for everyone to discuss their opinions both on Zoom and in person at the meeting on May 2nd. Each speaker will have 1 minute. Members can state their opinions before the May 2nd vote on our New Hope Audubon Facebook page (request to be added if you are not already a member). You are also invited to start discussions or share resources here in our private Facebook group. 

How can I sign up to speak about the name change proposal on the night of the vote, May 2nd?

There will be a sign-up sheet for members to add their names to when they arrive at the NC Botanical Gardens Thursday, May 2nd and a chat-box sign-up for those on Zoom, though we are still finalizing the Zoom details. We hope to have an option for the Zoom community comments to be read by a moderator, or to be spoken by the originator in turn. Speakers will be strictly limited to 1 minute only. Please be prepared to be respectful and concise.

Can members vote by email before or after the meeting if they are unable to attend on May 2nd?

Unfortunately, our Bylaws state that members must be “present” to vote and do not provide for an option for absentee voting. We may consider an amendment to the Bylaws in the future to accommodate this option, but any future changes will not affect the May 2024 vote.

How are members being notified of the planned vote?

Via our regular newsletter mailing, announcement on our website, postcards to members without electronic mail address, and social media.

How can I find out if I am up to date with dues?

To verify your membership status and ensure you are a member in good standing, please email our Membership Chair Rachelle Roake at [email protected].

Do I have to bring proof of my current membership status to be able to vote on May 2nd?

We will be able to look up your membership dues status if you request it at the time of the meeting, or you can contact Rachelle Roache ([email protected]) before then, but no proof will be required. Attendees who attest that they are members in good standing will be given a ballot for voting.

Who comprises the slate of officers that the Nominating Committee is putting forward for 2024-25?

President:                     Carol Hamilton

Vice President:             Ross McKinney

Secretary:                     Mary George

Treasurer:                     Leanne Richbourg

Director:                       Carolyn McAllaster

Director:                       Cathy Rodriques

Director:                       Gail Boyarsky

How can I read the bylaws in advance of the meeting?

You may view the clean version of the bylaws if approved here, and the proposed changes here.

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