Philanthropy: It’s More Than Just Money

This past week, Giving USA™ presented its report of charitable giving by individuals, corporations, bequests and foundations.  The extremely positive news was that in 2017, charitable giving was up 5.2% in the U.S.  Each of the donor groups increased its giving over the previous year, with the greatest overall percentage of giving attributed to individuals… whose giving represented 70% of all charitable gifts.

This philanthropy represents the true kindness and generosity of the American people.  When faced with a crisis, a need or the inhumanity of others, Americans step up and demonstrate our caring with both financial and other gifts.  While the classic definition of philanthropy is “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes,” today’s true “philanthropists” are more than that definition; they demonstrate passion and focus on positive change; and they are not solely defined by the amount they give.

What does it take, then, to encourage charitable giving to particular institutions, organizations and issues?  The following are words of wisdom, implications taken from research conducted by The Melior Group in community studies and for other non-profits:

  • Donors must be inspired. A performance, story or (hoped-for future) event can encourage prospective donors to consider gifts.
  • Donors want to be engaged. It is no longer a one-and-done gift:  donors want to feel a personal connection; they want to give time and expertise in addition to money, and to feel that they know the organization.
  • Donors want to make a difference. While donors recognize their role is not to actually solve the problems, they do want demonstration (such as tangible metrics) of the impact their contributions are making.
  • Donors recognize it’s their voices, as well as their money. It is important to consider the critical role of advocacy as a philanthropic mechanism; positive change comes from organizations that work from the inside as well as the outside to improve the lives of others.

Questions?  Comments?  Interested in learning more? Contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

market research

When Conventional Wisdom Isn’t Wisdom: Five Considerations to Get the Answers You Need from Market Research

Both for-profit and non-profit organizations wrestle with the approach to marketing themselves.  Management questions emerge about whether and how to advertise, how to price products and services, what new markets are emerging, how to (re)position and take advantage of opportunities, how to retain customers, where to look for new customers or business partners, whether a new product or service will succeed and when to launch something new – the list goes on and on.

Too often, management relies on conventional wisdom or “gut” thinking rather than integrating information from market research.  The right information can help focus these management questions and provide important answers.  When considering whether or not to include market research, think about the following:

  1. What marketing or management decisions do I need to make for my organization? How much will it cost me (in time, money, or reputation) to be wrong?
  2. What do I already know? Do I have the data to back this up?  What will I need to learn?
  3. What do I need to know about my competition and what they are doing that will help guide my organization?
  4. What should my marketing and sales strategies include in order to optimize my reach to existing and new audiences/customers?
  5. Once I’ve conducted research, how do I use the resulting information optimally?

Providing data to answer these questions is one of the roles of market research. Organizations want to make business and marketing decisions based on a deeper understanding of the key factors that will influence successes, so they can feel confident that their plan will reap rewards.  The Melior Group can help you discover these key answers, data and influential factors, as well as provide strategic recommendations, that will help you guide your organization to greater success in the future.

For more information or to request a proposal, contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

market research

The Value of Market Research

In our 35 years in business, we’ve often stumbled upon the same roadblock with our clients – they know they need to do market research in order to move forward, but they have trouble gaining approval from the higher-ups.  When there is a “we already know this” attitude but it’s not backed up by data, that’s where companies and organizations run the risk of wasting time, money and energy on ineffective endeavors.

We were happy to see Quirks, the marketing research magazine, publish an article that touches on the importance of research, as well as how to explain to colleagues why it is valuable.  If you’re invested in a new research project but know you need approval to start, check out these tactics and then contact us – we will help you get the sign-off you need to move forward.

Click here to read the article: Educating internal stakeholders on the importance of marketing research

Interested in conducting a market research project?  Contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.


Tips from the Pros for Survey Writing

With the advent of easy-to-use survey software, it’s no wonder so many organizations choose to meet their survey needs internally.  Yet all too often, individuals who are great at marketing or sales find themselves thrust into the market research role with only the vaguest idea of where to begin.

The truth is, it’s harder than it looks if you want objective information that will help you answer important questions.

With that in mind, here are 7 general strategies that Melior consultants consider when designing surveys that will yield insightful and impactful information.

  1. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a luxury most businesses can’t afford – keep your true decision-making needs in mind. Stay true to your business goals and make sure the information you collect will be useful.  “Nice to know” questions cost time and money most businesses can’t afford.
  2. Don’t ask questions if you’re not willing to learn from the answers – keeping an open mind will help you to uncover the “aha” moment.
  3. Respect the time of your respondents – attention spans are short and getting shorter, so keep your questions on point.
  4. Speak the language of your target respondent – don’t expect them to understand your vernacular.
  5. Ask about one item at a time – compound questions are at best confusing, and at worst, useless. If I ask you whether you prefer blue suede sneakers or red high heels, how will I know if your answer is driven by comfort, style, or color preference?
  6. Keep sales and research separate – disguising a sales pitch as market research is a lose/lose scenario, gaining you neither sales nor sound market information.
  7. Close the loop with participants – respondents (especially if they are customers) like to know the time they invested in your survey made a difference, so share a few key findings, lessons learned or actions you took as a result of their participation. It will make them (and others) all the more likely to participate the next time around.

The Melior Group can help you with survey projects that require deep experience and/or creative thinking, arms-length interactions, complex information or even an outside “messenger” to safely navigate the in-house political landscape and deliver difficult news.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call – we are here for you!

Contact Sue Levine at [email protected] 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 [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x107.

customer experience

Approach Community Studies With an Eye to Customer Experience

By looking at community members as “customers,” The Melior Group’s approach to community studies offers clients a unique perspective and innovative recommendations.  Our research methodology applies a marketing framework to the issues of interest to specific communities, and examines purchase decision-making, buyer behavior and the customer experience.

When this innovative approach is utilized, our clients are better able to understand how community members view the experiences, services and products being offered by the client.  Community leaders can then foster a more positive experience, driving a higher volume of “purchases” and/or more meaningful, engaging and successful interactions.

Recently, we’ve been sharing with our industry peers the efforts and successes of Melior’s Vice President Susan Levine and Senior Project Director Sindey Dranoff in the Jewish community studies sector:

  • Their article, “Jewish Community Studies as Seen Through a Business Lens” was published in a special edition of Contemporary Jewry: click here to read the article
  • Susan and Sindey presented at the Eastern Sociological Society’s 2017 Annual Meeting as part of the “The Transformation of Jewish (and Other) Community Studies” session: click here to learn more

To read more about our work with Jewish community studies, click here.  If you have questions about your own community study, please reach out to us and we will be happy to start the conversation.

For more information, contact Susan Levine at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x107 or Sindey Dranoff at 215-545-0054 x108 / [email protected].

jewish community studies

If You Ask, We Answer: Part 2 – Healthcare

Continuing our series about the common questions that our clients ask us:  our first post focused on the higher education sector.  We now turn our focus to healthcare.

When my kids ask me what I do all day, I respond with, “We answer questions.”  I give pretty much the same response to adults, because while it sounds simple, it captures the essence of my work.  That’s why The Melior Group is in business.

So when it comes to our healthcare provider clients like hospitals and health systems, what kinds of questions is Melior answering, and how are they using the information?

If we build it, will they come?

Investment in facilities, programs and services is costly, and our healthcare clients need data about consumers to support their decisions.  Hospital planning departments and their consultants provide the market information (how many people live in the area, insurance status, etc.); Melior’s work focuses on gathering insights into consumer attitudes and behavior. We ask questions of the market such as:

  • Is there a need in your community for said initiatives?
  • When making decisions for this type of program/service, what are your criteria for selection?
  • If the program/service offers these menu items, how likely would you be to consider using it?
  • What would make you more likely to use it?

With the answers given, Melior is able to guide clients to make “go/no go” decisions, and, if the decision is “go”, to develop a product that is responsive to consumers’ needs and preferences.

Is our consumer-directed marketing and outreach accomplishing what we want it to accomplish, and if not, what can we do to make it better?

We often work with clients when they are developing their consumer marketing strategy.  They may need to evaluate their current brand status, as well as elicit input for future marketing campaigns.  We ask questions of consumers such as:

  • What is important to you when you are making decisions about healthcare?
  • What are your impressions of the different providers in the market?
  • How do you gather information about healthcare providers?
  • What is your reaction to current advertising and other messaging from healthcare providers?

The answers help our clients to develop marketing communications which are believable, distinctive and have the potential to resonate with desired audience segments.

How can we better serve our surrounding community? 

This is an important question for our nonprofit healthcare clients, which are usually mission-driven.  They take their missions seriously, and want to hear, from the audiences they are committed to serving, how they are doing.  As such, we ask questions of those audiences such as:

  • Do you perceive this provider as the “go to” resource for your family’s health needs?
  • Does this provider treat all patients with the compassion and respect that they deserve?
  • Is this provider doing all that it can to improve the overall health of the community?

Though sometimes the findings can surprise, and even hurt, they can provide a starting point for improvement and rededication to meeting mission goals.

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

Our research can help healthcare providers explore all of these issues and more.  Give us a call or shoot us an email and let us know how we can help.

For more information please contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected]/215-545-0054 ext. 103

define a brand

The 5 Aspects That Define A Brand

In our work with brand development and tracking of branding effectiveness, we have to accommodate the five aspects that define a brand.  We conduct research to understand whether there is congruity between what the brand is – and says it is – and the perceptions of the various targeted market segments.  This research can be conducted with both internal stakeholders (employees, board members, “friends,” professionals) and external stakeholders (customers, consumers, opinion leaders, other professionals).

The 5 aspects are:

  1. Brand promise: what consumers will actually get interacting with you and the feelings they will have in the “relationship” with you.
  2. Brand elements: the tangible and the intangible components that work together to clearly and consistently communicate the aspects of your brand.
  3. Brand persona: how consumers judge and evaluate you before doing business with you and, subsequently, establishing a relationship.
  4. Brand perceptions: how consumers comprehend your brand… and does it actually reflect/represent what you want it to.
  5. Brand expectations: every interaction with the brand matters, and must be what consumers expect.

We believe that a brand must be clear, reliable, consistent and believable to both internal and external constituencies.  The branding research that we conduct explores these aspects with that in mind; we then make recommendations for minor and major shifts based on the perceptions of all types of stakeholders, and work with clients to refine and/or refresh the brand.

For more information, contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.


True or False: Without Data You’re Just Another Person With An Opinion

“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” 
– W. Edwards Deming

At The Melior Group, we live and die by that quote.  It is how we sell our services:  we believe, deep in our bones, that information/data can help move an organization toward where it wants to go.

The longer I work in marketing research, the more that quote has taken on another meaning.  I have learned that our clients’ opinions, which are usually based in anecdotal evidence and intuition, are also often correct and borne out in data.  Upon delivery of our findings, we usually hear some version of the following:  “this information doesn’t surprise me.” 

When I first started out in this business, my face would fall when a client would say that.  I thought a statement like that was a criticism,  a veiled message that the client did not value what we had done and felt they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth.  Today, however, I have a different perspective.  Head nods and lack of surprise at our findings are comforting signs that we did our job right.  I feel unsettled when a client says, “this is news to me…I am completely surprised by what you have found.”

My change of heart starts with confidence in my clients.  If they are doing their jobs right, then they have a sense of what is going on with their customers, their employees, their brand, etc.  They work there, after all.

So have I just talked The Melior Group out of business with my assertion that our clients already know what will be revealed in the data that we gather?  Absolutely not.  If data collection is done well (and this, we know, is critical), data provides validation and proof… it is defendable.  It is the bulwark of evidence that organizations need to move forward.

Just because “without data you’re just another person with an opinion,” doesn’t mean that your opinion isn’t right.

For more information please contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected]/215-545-0054 ext. 103


Traditional Market Segmentation Has Met Its Match – Meet “Personas”

“Market segmentation” is typically defined as a process of dividing consumers (or businesses) into groups based on some shared characteristics, such as demographic profiles, lifestyles, common interests or needs.  It is an extremely useful tool for targeting these groups and developing strategies and tactics to effectively reach them by assuming that different market segments are motivated by different things.  This has worked effectively and has been a successful process since marketing was a “wee thing.”

Today, by actually understanding more about these consumers and businesses and what they represent, we can do an even better job of target marketing… reaching them in a way that expands the data about the segment into descriptors of the people who “reside” in the segment.  We can go beyond data and create personas, bringing to life the people for whom strategies are created by providing sketches of the people representative of key segments.

Consider a wealth management firm looking at ways to reach a target audience…


By adding behavioral, opinion, motivational and attitudinal dimensions to market segmentation development, marketers are better able to know what makes customers and prospects tick, what they need, what they are willing and able to buy from them (and competitors), and how to tell the target segments their story. Personas are more than the sum of data points – they are the vehicles that bring your target market to life.

In future posts, we’ll explore more on this topic – stay tuned!

For more information, contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104 or Sue Levine at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x107.

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