Marketing Strategy + Planning

The marketing investment portfolio

As the choices of new marketing strategies and initiatives evolve, nonprofits constantly reevaluate what marketing initiatives to pursue and how much to invest in each marketing communications vehicle. How can you help your nonprofit determine how much to invest in from one vehicle versus another?

The best way to do this is with the same logical approach for building your own personal or business investment fund.

Diversify.  Is your retirement fund invested in only one or two key stocks? More likely, you learned or were advised by a financial specialist to build a portfolio made up of many key stocks to reduce risk and maximize return.

The same approach works with marketing opportunities. Think of each marketing channel as a stock in your portfolio. Your nonprofit can invest in all types of marketing communications-from paid advertising and direct mail to email lists and social marketing and much more.

Can you afford all of them? Not always, but it is important to develop a mix or invest in a diversified group of potential marketing vehicles that will persevere together. They work together to deliver an average return on your organization’s investment, both short-term and long-term.

Reduce risk but don’t dilute. While investing in many marketing initiatives to reach your objectives does reduce risk, you must be careful not to dilute one or many initiatives to afford the others.

While many nonprofits may not invest in paid advertising, there are certain levels of minimum investments (in dollars) that must be made in order for advertising to be worth the investment. The same is true for other marketing vehicles.

Spreading your program too thin for diversification will waste money. Like financial investments, it requires a careful balance.

Evaluate and find the winners, and divest the losers. By no means retain a marketing vehicle that flopped for you. Evaluate the results of each vehicle-objectively.

Trace your results, if possible, back to each specific vehicle. Determine return on investment for each if you can. Divest the losers and put your budget into what succeeded for you or into a different, promising marketing initiative. Again, just like you would manage a stock portfolio.

Keep your objectives honest. The salesperson at the local cable television company… the event management firm representative… the direct mail company… The bottom line is, they are all competing for your nonprofit’s budget, and want everything they can get.

That’s their job. They will try to persuade you that they can return more for you. But ask them if they would put their future into one or two stocks.

Yes, you might like them personally and you don’t want to let down a neighbor. Your job is to further the mission of your organization, so don’t lose sight of that. Don’t make it personal.

Adjust your marketing portfolio as needed, but keep it diversified. If your nonprofit’s marketing communications program is not meeting your objectives, keep up with the latest in marketing trends. Get ideas from various marketing professionals. But never resort to a thin, undiversified portfolio.


Written by Kyle Gregory. (LinkedIn)

Kyle Gregory is the managing director + senior client strategist with The Shoestring Agency. a full-service marketing communications agency that serves nonprofits nationwide. Kyle can be reached at