About a year or so ago our stake made a move to improve fast offering receipts. The bishop supported this and urged everyone to donate to fast offerings and, in addition to the general admonition, he reinstituted Aaronic priesthood collection of fast offerings after church. Members were further urged to filter there fast offering donations through the Aaronic priesthood who would come by to get them every fast Sunday, rather than just tacking them on to tithing payments given to the Bishopric.
According to a couple financial clerks, this resulted in a notable increase in receipts– in a recent sacrament meeting talk one clerk put the figure at a fourfold increase. Another had earlier guessed that receipts had approximately doubled (possibly one was talking about receipts and the other about # donating). One clerk felt that the biggest change was not in the size of the individual donations, but the number of people who donated– although he was just making a guess off the top of his head, rather than performing an actual calculation.
Now, I live in Utah where such collection is surely as easy to do as it could possibly get. There are real costs in doing this kind of collection in wards that are geographically spread out. But doubling or quadrupling fast offerings is nothing to sneeze at. Is it coercive? Certainly there is some pressure to give when somebody shows up at your door. On the other hand they have no idea how much you donate, so one could easily fulfill that social pressure with very small amounts of money (or even just handing back a blank envelope if one wished). So I don’t think the coercion is all that strong.
Now, I guess the next question is, how much more money would we get if we had the Laurels collect instead? :)