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 [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x112, or Linda McAleer at [email protected] or 215-545-0054 x104.


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.

independent high schools

Three Criteria Crucial To Marketing Independent High Schools

In our 35 year history, The Melior Group has worked with numerous independent high schools, including those with a faith-based mission.  Given the demographic forecasts which predict a dip in the number of high school students over the next several years, rising tuition costs, and overcapacity in many markets, it is not surprising that our recent projects all center on helping independent schools enhance their outreach and recruitment efforts.

In our work, we’ve talked with countless parents about how they make educational decisions.  We’ve heard them express their hopes and aspirations for their children, and their belief that the “right” school can enable those visions.  We thus have gained insight into what parents value when “shopping” for schools, and we know what schools need to communicate in order to attract the students they want.

First and foremost, our advice is this:  in this competitive environment, every school needs to be prepared with the answer to the following question:  ‘at the end of high school, how will my child be better as a result of attending YOUR SCHOOL (versus going somewhere else)?’ 

Parents, in making assessments about what is the best school for their child, compare schools on three overarching criteria.  We believe that in each of these areas, schools need to articulate their unique approach/philosophy, strengths and track record:

  1. Strong academics are a baseline expectation of independent schools. Parents assess excellence in this area by examining college admissions statistics (parents want to see that nearly all graduates attend college, and that some are accepted to highly competitive colleges); breadth and depth of classes offered; word-of-mouth about teaching quality; availability of advanced courses; presence of academic enrichment opportunities (e.g., STEM club, trips, lab facilities, etc.); and availability of academic support from teachers and learning specialists.
  2. Parents want to see evidence of measurable outcomes on the “investment” in tuition. They want to know how their investment will impact admissions to competitive colleges; ability to earn college scholarship money; and career prospects and earning potential.  It is important to note that parents love seeing evidence of strong alumni networks, which they perceive can contribute to graduates’ career success.
  3. Potential for personal growth is also critically important, and as such parents look closely at extracurricular opportunities, and the extent to which their child could identify and pursue their individual interests and passions. They also assess intangible culture factors including values, spirituality/religion, character development, love of learning, and where their child will “fit”.  While these factors can be difficult to articulate, they are what parents point to as distinguishing public schools from independent schools, and independent schools from each other.

In sum, the schools that are able to meet their enrollment goals are those that can make the case that their graduates are better off for having gone there. 

Do you have questions about marketing an independent high school?  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

sindey dranoff

The Melior Group Team Profile: Sindey Dranoff

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 – and we created a throwback blog post to share some highlights about her leadership and personality.

Inspired, we decided to create a Melior Team Profile for everyone on our staff. By asking and answering these questions, we hope you’ll get to know us a bit more, both personally and professionally.  Earlier we featured Vice President Liz Cohen.

This month, we’re taking the time to get to know Senior Project Director Sindey Dranoff, who recently became the leader of our Jewish Studies Initiative:

  • Essential business philosophy: Don’t jump to conclusions, listen carefully and ask questions to clarify.
  • Best decision: Going to Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s Cooperative Education program exposed me to real life and the business world.  Not only did I gain work experience, but I also had the opportunity to take these experiences back to the classroom and apply them in an academic setting.
  • Word that best describes you: Fearless – I am willing to try new things and learn new things in business.
  • The most important lesson you’ve learned: Honesty is the best policy – in life and in business. Be yourself and be true to yourself.  This informs my work in ethics and compliance at Melior, as well as my other work and volunteer projects.

To learn more about Sindey, check out her full bio here.

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.


Research is Essential to Fundraising in the Era of Tax Reform

The Melior Group is pleased to share this special guest blog post written by:
Michele A. Schiavoni, APR, M.S.
Schiavoni Consulting, LLC
Marketing, Communications & Fundraising Counsel
[email protected] 

Nonprofits throughout the nation begin a new era in 2018, in part because of the tax law changes going into effect this month.  Respected sources including Giving USA Foundation and the Lilly Family Foundation project that the overall impact to the nonprofit sector could be a staggering $13 billion loss in individual donations.

Although I do not think the changes in charitable giving are sound public policy, the nonprofit sector has to adapt to survive and thrive.  The unintended consequences of the tax changes have yet to be experienced and when the full impact is felt, we may see corrective action in the future.  But for now, nonprofits have to pivot.  These changes do provide a unique opportunity for worthy, mission-based organizations to take inventory of how they communicate their value to their philanthropic investors.  Research tells us that tax incentives are NOT the prime motivator for individual giving.  Donors tell us they give to causes that align with their passion, and savvy donors are more focused than ever on measurable outcomes.  To remain successful, you must ensure your donors see your organization’s work as essential in a competitive philanthropic marketplace.

Qualitative and quantitative research is essential to position your mission-based organization for success in a post-tax reform era.  Why?  The changes in tax law only tell part of the story. There is a cluster of compelling reasons for fundraisers to bring a new sense of rigor to their strategic planning.  The reality is, prior to the tax law change, the nonprofit sector in America was already evolving; funders have become increasingly attentive to donor’s expectations around accountability.

Nonprofits should take a brand strategy tip from the for-profit sector.  Research is required in order to truly understand how your donors experience your organization.  The closer you align with your donors and prospects, the more opportunity you have for enhancing loyalty and sustaining philanthropic investment.  Consider qualitative research to gain new understanding for how your donors experience and react to your brand.

Engaging professionals to conduct qualitative research such as interviews with your donors, either one-on-one or in focus groups, will provide extensive insights into how your mission is perceived.  This input is essential to fashioning an effective case for support.  The closer you align your organization with your most valued donors, the more effectively you can sustain loyalty and gain the added advantage of growing your donor base.  If you are an educational institution focused on increasing alumni giving, don’t launch new social media campaigns and direct mail strategies UNTIL you have invested in listening to your alumni.  You need to know: what prompts alumni to give; when are the best times for them to convene; what do they want to hear more about from their alma mater?

A second and equally important step is to ensure that your organization’s operating plan measures impact.  The days of counting attendance at events to gauge success are behind us.  Today’s donors want to see the social impact of their investment and this requires a new commitment to measurement and research.  Donors care less and less about transactions and more and more about transformation.  There is no escaping the reality that your nonprofit’s outcomes must be supported by research-based metrics.   Your donors need to understand what you are improving and whose lives are changing because of what you do.  Community impact studies play a critical role in telling that story.   This applies accords the board from arts organizations to shelters.

Research is an essential next step in your nonprofit’s sustainability.   Your efforts will uncover more effective strategies for engaging prospective donors and sustaining relationships with loyal donors.  To thrive in this new era, you must invest in research.

Interested in discussing a research project for your nonprofit?  The Melior Group can help.  Contact Linda McAleer at [email protected] or  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.

Melior sign

Blast From The Past: The Things This Sign Has Seen

As part of The Melior Group celebrating its 35th year in business, throughout 2017-2018 our blog will be featuring throwback posts to explore the company’s earlier days, such as this one with pictures highlighting our 1980s technology and fashions! (Ah, shoulder pads)

Today we’re featuring the first Melior Group sign, a brass plaque which was bolted to the outside of the blue door of our office on 316 S. 16th Street.  This was The Melior Group’s first office after moving out of founder Linda McAleer’s home.  We loved working in this office for over 20 years, and this sign saw it all – daily mail deliveries of paper surveys (now mostly replaced by online surveys), our first taste of the Internet (remember DSL and Ask Jeeves??), our annual Halloween parties and our neighbor’s small children who (gasp) have now graduated college.  We left this office in 2009 and now the building has been converted back to a residential home – we hope they are as happy as we were!

This sign says The Melior Group does “market research” which is true – but now we do so much more, which is why our current sign says “market research consulting”… as we’ve truly become a strategic consultancy that not only provides data, but also the informative insights that help our clients take action.

Still, we keep this old sign in a place of honor in our entryway – welcoming visitors to our office, just as it did for so many years!


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!



1 2 3 4