NEW YORK, MARCH 1 -- Girls Clubs of America, fearing for its existence, sought a federal court order today to bar Boys Clubs of America from changing its name to Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

"A name change by Boys Clubs of America will be generally misleading and create confusion among donors at all levels, from corporations to individuals," Girls Clubs national director Margaret Gates said in papers filed in U.S. District Court here.

"Donors will have a reasonable basis to believe Boys Clubs of America and Girls Clubs of America have merged or at the very least that Boys Clubs of America and Girls Clubs of America are operating under a joint venture," she said.

"As a result, donations to Girls Clubs of America will decrease, and Girls Clubs of America will not have the funds to continue with its present programs. Because of its dependency on donations, eventually Girls Clubs of America will cease to exist," she added.

The suit said Girls Clubs of America was founded in 1945 to address "the historical inequity in opportunities for girls and young women" and said the clubs were formed to help build girls' "capacity for economic independence and responsible adulthood."

Girls Clubs of America has more than 110 local member organizations affiliated with it, some of them also affiliated with Boys Club of America. In a case where the club has dual affiliation, Girls Clubs has no quarrel, the court papers said.

Girls Clubs of America serves about 250,000 girls ages 6 to 18 in 32 states, the papers said. Eighty percent of its $2.7 million 1988 budget was from donations and grants from individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies.

Last April, at the Boys Clubs of America annual convention in New York, the organization's leaders proposed changing its name to Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The proposal is expected to be voted on at a meeting in Orlando, Fla., beginning May 5.