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.


Happy Anniversary To Us!

It is with pride and honor that I celebrate The Melior Group’s 35th year in business.  Some time in 1982 in the living room of my home, I had the dream that marketing research could be beneficial to organizations offering services, not just organizations providing products.  With a few people willing to dream with me, we developed the research approach we called Measurement of Perceived Value (or MPV) and assisted public utilities with examining and understanding the value customers placed on the components of their gas and electric service – first, learning what comprised service and then measuring the utilities’ ability to satisfy the things that mattered to customers:  that the lights went on with the switch, that a courteous and knowledgeable person addressed a problem when the customer called, that employees fixed downed poles.

Since then, Melior has been a thought leader and strategic research firm, contributing information, intelligence and insight to clients in higher education, in healthcare, and in the not-for-profit space (among others).  Our marketing director asked me to write about what I am most proud of about The Melior Group… among the many:

  • The amazing team of professionals here, who work collaboratively, are thoughtful for and on behalf of their clients, respect each other’s ideas
  • Those who took the risk with me in 1982 (Michael Halbert, Linda Knoll, Jeffrey Lowenhar) – and, more than anyone, Maitlon Russell – our EVP, the visionary, strategic thinker and coiner of “conventional wisdom is not wisdom… we need to know what consumers value and why”
  • The success of our clients, who recognize the value of strategic thinking and the contribution of research-based insights to planning for their future
  • Being one of the first research firms to work with hospitals as they entered in to the foray of marketing… and continuing to work with some of the best hospitals and health systems in the U.S. today
  • Entering new markets where old ideas may prevail, but client organizations are excited to try new approaches (such as with our community studies for faith-based organizations)
  • Working with education clients to build programs to assure all who want to have access to post-secondary education

The 35th anniversary gemstone is Emerald.  So I’ll close with this… adjectives to define an Emerald that describe today’s Melior are:  brilliant, bright, sparkling and vivid.  Pretty appropriate for a strategic research firm.

To contact Linda McAleer, please e-mail [email protected] or call 215-545-0054 x104

Melior sign

Blast From The Past: Melior’s Early Days

On November 1, The Melior Group will be celebrating its 35th year in business!  In anticipation of this celebration, we thought it would be fun to share some pictures from our early days.  While the newest technology and latest fashions may have changed since what is featured in these photographs, some things haven’t changed:  our belief in having a great team of people, working hard and smart, serving our clients and seeking solutions to their problems.  We look forward to continuing this work in the years ahead!

Melior's 35th anniversaryThis photo features our first “laptop” or portable computer. The keyboard attached to the CPU and then you carried it like a suitcase!



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.


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.

Linda McAleer

Blast from the Past: Philadelphia Business Journal CEO File on Linda McAleer

While going through our press clippings, we found a fun blast from the past that we wanted to share. A few years ago our President, Linda McAleer, was selected to be featured in the Philadelphia Business Journal as part of their ongoing CEO File series.

In addition to expressing her business philosophy and Melior’s accomplishments, Linda shared some fun facts about herself. We think this profile truly encapsulates the spirit of Linda both personally and professionally.

Here are some of the highlights from the article that define Linda’s leadership and personality:

  • Essential business philosophy: Conventional wisdom is not wisdom.
  • Best decision: Starting The Melior Group and recognizing early on that physical exercise is critical for health.
  • Word that best describes you: Ultimate networker.
  • First choice for a new career: Commissioner of the National Football League.
  • Person most interested in meeting: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When she accepted the nomination to the Supreme Court, she paid tribute to her mother in her remarks … “I pray that I may be all that she would have been, had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”
  • The most important lesson you’ve learned: Nothing is constant but change.

To read the full profile of our fearless leader, you can visit the page on Philadelphia Business Journal’s website here.

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 [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.

Career Wardrobe Named Melior Group People of the Moment

Career Wardrobe, a Philadelphia nonprofit, calls for people to “imagine a place where every woman in transition can obtain the confidence she needs in order to achieve the next level of gainful employment.”

During its inaugural year in 1995, the then-named “Working Wardrobe” passed out 938 donated suits to women starting their professional journeys. By 2008, the group celebrated its 50,000th client – proving that women across Philadelphia workplaces have felt the organization’s impact. Now in its 21st year, Career Wardrobe continues to build on its mission of helping women break out of the cycle of poverty by providing support that encourages employment and personal responsibility.

This month’s Melior People of the Moment are the staff and volunteers of Career Wardrobe. We at The Melior Group feel a special kinship with the organization as our President and founder, Linda McAleer, currently serves as a Board Member.

Career Wardrobe has helped Philadelphia-area residents for the past two decades through a comprehensive list of services, including:

  • The Boutique
  • Dress and Image Consultation Program
  • Gateway to Success Job Readiness and Blitz Basic Courses
  • Professional Development Certificate
  • Career Coaching
  • Computer Lab for Job Searching and Networking

Through the years, the organization has continually sought to understand the needs of the community and has adapted to meet those needs. For example, just last year Career Wardrobe launched Make it Work for Men, which expands the dressing services to men in transition. A population as diverse as Philadelphia requires different types of programs to achieve a common goal of professional and career advancement.

career wardrobeCareer Wardrobe’s results speak for themselves: In 2014, 67% of women responding to Career Wardrobe’s follow-up surveys within six months of their appointments reported gaining employment and discontinuing their reliance on cash assistance. The impact on Philadelphia’s economy is significant: a $19 million savings for taxpayers in public assistance for benefits alone.

In our view from Walnut Street, Career Wardrobe is providing Philadelphia citizens, workers, and employers with a vital service. As a women-owned business, we are particularly proud to support Career Wardrobe’s mission and empower women in their professional journeys.

Career Wardrobe now has locations in Philadelphia and Bucks and Delaware Counties, and also partners with organizations in Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties. As the organization expands, so will its beneficial impact through the Greater Philadelphia area.

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

A mortarboard and book demonstrate the success of higher ed recruitment.

This Higher Ed Recruitment TV Ad Is Spot On

As a part of its We Rise campaign, a for-profit school seems to succeed where many non-profit universities struggle in higher ed recruitment. In a single thirty-second spot, the University of Phoenix addresses the major pain points impacting key demographics of a diverse group of audiences, many of whom institutions of higher learning find hard to reach.

Higher ed marketers are well aware that the “typical” college student has shifted from middle class teenagers with parents can afford to pay full tuition to include more atypical and diverse sets of student types. Many students are working full-time, have children and are cash strapped or sleep deprived. Others are returning veterans, first generation Americans or are struggling to care for family members in need.

In the ad, “If I Only Had A Brain” from The Wizard of Oz has been adapted for use in the new world of higher education where imagery and lyrics blend to portray the challenges experienced by students of all ages while simultaneously celebrating the characteristics that define success.

For students – the school implies that it values hard-working, resilient and dedicated applicants – and for potential employers – graduates are confident, tough and the type of people you can rely on. It’s a really smart concept.

This single TV ad successfully addresses what many fail to:

  • Multiple types of students: traditional aged, employed, older, veterans, caregivers, parents with kids and more
  • Negative sentiments: from critics who think a degree obtained from a for-profit institution isn’t a “real degree”
  • Employers: by implying that University of Phoenix graduates posses the qualities of success

It is easy to ignore advertising from for-profit institutions. They tend to take a beating in the higher ed world as critics claim the degrees do not hold the same value as those from more traditional not-for-profits.

But tell that to the employers we’ve talked to over the years. Many – admittedly not all – aren’t concerned about for-profit vs. non-profit, but they are concerned about new employees having the skills, experiences and characteristics needed to excel.

Admittedly, we haven’t yet seen the statistics to learn if inquiries have increased or if employers’ perceptions have become more favorable toward the University of Phoenix since this campaign started.  Based on our own research outcomes, employers seek graduates with real life experience who can juggle complexity, get the job done and confidentially handle challenges. We have found that they do indeed seek more than brains.

More Than Brains –


To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, please visit our Education page or contact Elizabeth Foley [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

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