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Do You Consider Your Communications and Marketing Costs as an Investment or an Expense?

by Janet Falk

At a certain nonprofit, new donors are asked How did you hear about us?

This is an organization that considers its Public Relations, Marketing and Communications dollars an investment and not an expense. (In this discussion, we address the mind-set of investment, not the accounting classification.)

Because it tracks the HOW question over time, the group fine tunes its activity in SEO, media outreach, Twitter and other platforms.

The definition of a marketing investment is any expenditure that creates tools that drive value and impact sales, even after the cost to create the tool is spent. Examples are websites, media relations, videos and social media engagement, among others. These marketing investments yield a long-term return, greater than any one-time ad.

Communications activity is easily magnified and extended in the digital arena:

  • Print news articles are accessible online, perhaps with additional visual and audio content, with no expiration date.
  • Newsletters, blogs and program brochure PDFs are incorporated into the main website.
  • Twitter activity and Facebook posts by staff, partners in collaborative activities and observers are always available.

Maybe a donor heard about your group from a news story, a tweet or a referral by a friend. They likely will conduct research online — to confirm the basics of your mission, the successes of your programs, your rating by the charity watchdog groups and other details that will persuade them to donate to your cause.

Invest in Communications and Marketing and you increase the likelihood these donors will find you online, where your digital tools and materials await discovery. Whether a news story, a newsletter or a new tweet; these digital tracks live indefinitely, well beyond their initial cost, yielding the highest ROI.

How much are you prepared to invest in Communications and Marketing activities to attract more supporters?


Janet Falk is a Communications professional with more than 15 years experience in-house and at public relations agencies. She manages pro-active media outreach and has secured placement of executives and events in local, national and international print and broadcast media; for example, a listing in The New York Times Weekend Calendar generated a 300% increase in attendees. Janet is a versatile writer who can prepare newsletters, speeches, advertisements, presentations and website copy, as well as marketing literature.