Research demonstrates the value of personal visits to fundraising


For 20 years, the Steier Group has relied on data analytics to manage our successful campaigns. Our statistics show what we know from experience: People give more to religious and community organizations when they are asked in person for support.

Personal visit infographic

The Steier Group recently embarked on a major, two-year research project to quantify exactly how much more effective personal visits are than other solicitation methods. We tracked 51 campaigns and 22,757 donor decisions, analyzing the size of gifts relative to how prospective donors were asked for support. We found that donors, when asked in person, give 54 percent of their requested amount. In comparison, donors gave 29 percent of the requested amount when approached by telephone and 33 percent when approached by mail.

We analyzed our data to see how the results compared to a study conducted in 2009 by the School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. For years, our managers have referenced that study when emphasizing the importance of asking for support in person. That study, based on a national sample of approximately 8,000 donors, found that donors gave 42 percent more, on average, to religious organizations when they were asked by someone they knew.

Another set of our statistics is worth noting. The average gift received through personal visits in the 51 Steier Group capital campaigns was $10,836 – more than six times larger than the average gift made via a telephone or mail solicitation. Our empirical findings reinforce the anecdotal experience of all Steier Group campaign managers: that asking your strongest supporters – in person – yields the best results.

These findings also prove an additional point: that volunteers are critical to a successful fundraising effort.

Put simply: More volunteers mean more personal visits. And those visits bring in more positive responses and larger donations. The number of active volunteers for your campaign will have a direct impact on the amount of money you raise.

Steier Group campaigns focus on visiting face to face with as many potential donors as possible. We have always found that personal visits lead to more success. Our advice for those seeking support is this: Don’t cut corners. When tempted to ask for a donation over the phone or through a letter, hang up the phone or step away from your computer. Instead, set a personal meeting with the prospective donor and ask for support.

You’ll like the results.

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