The “Surban” Millennials Trend: What We’ve Learned and Where It’s Going

Millennials – where are they going?

Up to now, millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996, have favored city living.  Nine in ten millennials currently live in metropolitan areas.  However, a problem has arisen, and as a result, a new trend has started to emerge.  As millennials – roughly ages 22 to 37 – begin to marry and raise families of their own, they are faced with higher and higher housing costs, as well as poor public schooling.  These factors have begun driving millennials increasingly to move to the suburbs.

What do they want?

In moving to the suburbs, however, millennials want to take a number of key elements of urban living with them to their new homes – walkability and access to public transit, as well as close proximity to amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, day care, health care/fitness centers, and community events and entertainment. This is giving rise to a new type of suburb called a “surban”.

What is a “surban”?

“Surban”, a term coined by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in California, is a suburban area that has the feel of an urban area, with walkability to great retail (like stores and restaurants) from a house or apartment.  Ideally, these communities offer the best of both worlds – larger, more affordable homes in safer environments with good schools, but also a sense of community, convenience, and in general, a sense of place.  It’s a suburb that is designed with a kind of village mentality in mind.

In the Philadelphia area, an example of a “surban” can be seen in the Village at Valley Forge in King of Prussia – a newer development that bills itself as a place to “live, shop and dine.”

What does this mean?

As millennials continue to move out of the city and find new homes and communities in which to live, this shift in the population will create new opportunities for variety of businesses, such as food markets and household furnishings stores, as well as for institutions like healthcare providers that are seeking to develop and expand their reach.

Want to continue the conversation about millennials and surban living?  Contact Sharon Hackenbracht at shackenbracht@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x112, or Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

Federations

How Federations can make the “bets” that really count for their communities

In a recent eJewish Philanthropy post, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer crafts a compelling case for “making a big bet” when investing in the Jewish community.  He notes the transformative effects of “big bets” such as Birthright, PJ Library and OneTable (helping young Jews share Shabbat dinners).

Most Federations, however, don’t have the luxury of making one “big bet.”  Instead, they face myriad competing demands to support programs and services of undeniable value to both their local and global Jewish communities.  How, then, do Federations decide which funding priorities to “bet” on – the ones that will pay off, by eliciting donor support and making their communities flourish?

One key for Federations to creating an effective funding strategy is understanding the priorities of their community – that is, identifying the programs and issues their community believes Federation should support.  In our work with various Jewish communities, we have seen significant, often surprising, differences in what communities identify as their desired funding priorities for their Federation, including:

  • Education
  • Support for Israel and global Jewry
  • Safety/security-related issues
  • Social issues (e.g., supports for vulnerable populations including the elderly, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, etc.)

Knowing what a community wants its Federation to fund and aligning the allocation process with those priorities can help maximize the impact of Federation’s investments.  By incorporating the community’s voice, Federations invest more than just the dollars they’ve raised… they invest community aspirations, which is more likely to translate to greater community satisfaction, participation and financial support.  Therefore, it is likely that this “bet” will literally pay off for Federation – with increased growth in the value of individual charitable donations and number of donors.

If you aren’t sure what your community’s funding priorities are, contact us.  We can help you find out.


Contact Sue Levine at slevine@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x107.

jewish community studies

If You Ask, We Answer: Part 3 – Jewish Community Studies

Continuing our series about the common questions that our clients ask us:  our first post focused on the higher education sector.  This was followed by our post on the healthcare sector.  We now turn our attention to the world of Jewish community studies.

For 35 years and counting, The Melior Group has been in the business of answering questions for our clients.  And, while the techniques and methods we use to answer those questions have changed over time, many of the questions have not.

So when it comes to our clients in the Jewish community – Federations, synagogues, Day Schools and social services organizations – what kinds of questions is Melior answering, and how are our clients using the information?

At the most fundamental level, our clients want to know how they can make their Jewish communities more vibrant and their members more engaged.

Jewish communities these days often find themselves struggling to be relevant to their members.  While the needs of some in the community may be well-served by traditional communal institutions, new strategies and approaches are needed to combat decline and ensure long-term survival.

By using a consumer behavior approach to understanding community needs, interests, behaviors and attitudes, our work provides new insights into what makes these communities “tick”, and how best to leverage those insights to build stronger communities.  Community leaders want to know…

  • What does our community “look like” – demographically, attitudinally, spiritually, emotionally and even philanthropically?
  • What’s working and what’s not – programmatically and institutionally?
  • Where are the gaps? What do we need to do better?
  • How well do community members understand what we do? How can we better engage those at the margins of the community?
  • Where is the community headed?

The answers we provide have been used by our clients in a variety of ways, allowing them to:

  • Make informed policy decisions
  • Set priorities
  • Launch, grow, and sunset programs
  • Determine funding allocations based on credible data, not instinct
  • Bolster community planning efforts
  • Amplify development efforts

Though our findings can sometimes surprise, they provide a starting point for community soul-searching and ultimately, strengthening.

In addition to the questions we ask, our rigorous approach to figuring out who we need to reach in order to gather the information clients need, and determining the best methodology for gathering information, is central to our work.

Our research can help Jewish communities, their agencies and institutions, explore all of these issues and more.  Give us a call or send us an email and let us know how we can help.


For more information, contact Sue Levine at slevine@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x107.

focus group

Let’s Focus Group It

I’ve been designing and moderating focus groups for three decades.  What an amazing idea:  put 10 of your best customer prospects in a room or 10 of your target “personas” in a room or 10 of the people you hope will vote for you or buy your product or service… and have them discuss why your product or service is best, how it could be improved, what it means to them to have it, what your competitors are doing better than you, how they hope your product or service will change their lives.

I used to resent the use of the title phrase “let’s focus group it,” determining that it demeaned the science and value of the group dynamic.  But, I’ve changed my mind.  Keeping “focus groups” front and center to help organizations understand “consumer” behavior is what I hope for.

This blog post came to mind when I saw this charming comic (I love comics!) about focus grouping in the 16th Century.

focus group

Six Chix comic by Isabella Bannerman, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer

But, from the point of view of the experienced moderator (me), I say this:  let’s not misuse these great tools and presume that they are quantitative survey samples or polls.  Focus groups work best when you need to hear the “whys” behind the numbers or the choices, when you want to learn what will really impact people choosing your product or service.  And, you need a moderator who knows how and when to ask the “whys” and help people consider their choices… because understanding that contributes to design of effective marketing communications, strategies, product concepts, and reasons-to-choose/benefits.

Let’s talk more about how we design and moderate focus groups for optimal results.


For more information, contact Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com or 215-545-0054 x104.

I Don’t Care What You Think Until I Think That You Care

“I don’t care what you think until I think that you care.”

I heard that quote and I can’t stop thinking about how perfectly this applies to health care, specifically to consumers’ thoughts and attitudes about the kind of health care they are seeking.

Over the years, The Melior Group has conducted thousands of focus groups with consumers about their decision-making and preferences for providers. The word “quality” gets used a lot. We hear some version of the statement “I want to go to a hospital/doctor/other provider that is known for delivering high quality care”  in every single focus group.

So what does “high quality healthcare” mean?

I’ve asked this question in more ways than I can count, searching, searching for clarity.

Because every time I would ask that question, I would get what I believed was a naïve answer – something like:  “A quality doctor is someone who listens to me,” or, “ I want to go someplace where I can really talk to my doctor.”

After hearing some version of this for the umpteenth time, I told myself that if I could only ask the question right, then I would get a “better” answer, like “quality healthcare means there are good outcomes”  or “quality means practicing evidence-based medicine.” 

I told myself that the consumers who were focused on doctors’ communication skills and “bedside manner” were missing the point:  to my mind, healthcare “quality” had nothing to do with interpersonal skills.

And then I heard that quote.

It was really an “ah ha” moment.  Of course!  As a patient, why would I value what a doctor was recommending to me – even if he/she was amazingly credentialed, the leading doctor in that field, educated at Harvard, yada yada – unless that doctor seemed to care enough about me to attempt to really get to the bottom of my particular problem, and my goals for treatment?

So what does caring in the medical setting mean? Does it mean…

Wearing a button that says “Ask me”?
Making small talk in the examining room?
Claiming, in advertising, that each patient is more than a number? 

I don’t think so.  Rather, I think that my focus group participants have got it right:  by listening — really listening,  restating the information to make clear that they have heard what their patient is saying, and asking the right questions — medical providers convey caring.  In so doing physicians are  better able to diagnose the real problem, and to suggest a treatment approach that a patient will be more likely to comply with.

Now that sounds like high quality healthcare.


Elizabeth Cohen is Vice President of The Melior Group, and our lead consultant in our work in the health care sector.

For more information please visit our Healthcare page or contact Elizabeth Cohen at lcohen@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 x103.

The Secular/Cultural Jewish Segment: More Than Meets the Eye

Ever since the publication of the Pew Study on American Jewry in late 2013, there has been a lot of hand wringing over findings that suggest a Jewish community in decline. Headlines blasted the dire news – “1 in 4 Jews are losing their religion!”  “Intermarriage rates continue to rise!”  “Major shift in Jewish identity noted as number of Secular/Cultural Jews grows!”  

For many community leaders, the last point is particularly troublesome.  When viewed on traditional measures of engagement – synagogue affiliation, raising their children as Jews, marrying other Jews, supporting Jewish causes and communal institutions – it is clear that Secular/Cultural Jews are less engaged in the community as a whole. And while that is all true… let’s not write off this growing segment just yet.

You Might Be Surprised To Learn…

Melior’s recent research reveals some surprising, if counter-intuitive, insights into the relationship this growing segment of American Jewry has with the established Jewish community.  In one community we studied, for example…

  • 35% donated to their local Jewish Federation in the past year
  • 30% belong to a religious institution (synagogue/temple/shul)
  • 22% send/sent a child to Jewish Day School

Strategies to Strengthen the Connection

And, in our experience, these results are not unique. Given this, what actions can community leaders take to strengthen the connection between Secular/Cultural Jews and the established Jewish community? Here are some strategies to consider:

Segment. Recognize that not all secular/cultural Jews are alike, and develop outreach strategies tailored to the sub-segments (i.e., those who are connected to traditional communal institutions vs. those who aren’t).

Simplify. Meet Secular/Cultural Jews ‘where they live’ – both figuratively and literally. Offer events/programs tailored to their interests (e.g., food, books, social causes, etc.) and bring these programs to more convenient locales.  Our research shows that secular/cultural Jews often live on the outskirts of a community so make it easy for them to participate.

Stay the course. Like many others within the Jewish community, the relationship of Secular/Cultural Jews to Jewish communal organizations and causes may wax and wane over time due to changes in personal circumstances, interests, and experiences. Keeping lines of communication open yields opportunities to deepen the connection when the opportunity presents itself.


For more information contact Susan J. Levine at sjlevine@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 ext 107 or Linda McAleer at lmcaleer@meliorgroup.com / 215-545-0054 ext 104.

Black Friday: The Super Bowl of Consumer Research and Take Our Poll!

Holiday Shopping on Black Friday

By Susan J. Levine and Elisa Foster

Do you know someone who works in consumer research or retail marketing?  They’re probably in a frenzy right now because this week is the Super Bowl of consumer behavior research: Black Friday.  For the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing and reading endless stories about who will shop, when they will shop and where they will shop on Black Friday.

However, this year’s Black Friday is special as more retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day.  With this increase of stores extending their holiday hours, everyone wants to know how this year’s shopping behaviors will impact how we celebrate holidays in the future.  Is this the end of Thanksgiving as we know it?  Journalists and bloggers are using stats to “prove” many, and often contradictory, points:

Let’s continue the conversation!  Please take our 2-second poll about YOUR consumer behavior and pass it along to your friends.  Then, stay tuned for our follow-up post next week to find out what really happened.

[polldaddy poll=7599123]

[polldaddy poll=7599130]