San Francisco City Guides

Spring-Summer 2015
Project Type
Fast track
Project Focus
Market Analysis,
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type
Arts & Culture,
Human Services


Founded in 1978, as a primary program of the SF Public Library, San Francisco City Guides (SFCG) has grown to provide 100 different tours with over 56,000 walkers served by 300+ volunteer guides. It offers between fifty and eighty-two different neighborhood tours each month, free of charge. The organization’s mission is to celebrate and share the history and folklore of San Francisco as well as the city’s rich cultural diversity. SFCG is a recognized ambassador of San Francisco, having been the official guide for inauguration of the Moscone Center, the fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge, the re-opening of the renovated and restored City Hall, and, since 2009, Golden Gate Park tours.


Although donations from tours cover approximately eighty percent of the annual operating budget, SFCG needs additional funding to expand its programming and create a more engaged and connected San Francisco population. San Francisco is rapidly changing, and with hostility towards the tech industry and other newcomers, it is more important than ever to connect locals and visitors to San Francisco and to create a strong lifelong sense of community. How can SFCG demonstrate its past and future importance to donors, foundations, and the city of San Francisco?

Project Objectives

SFCG asked an ACT team to find methods to quantify SFCG’s economic and societal benefits to the local community from offering free tours to local guests and visitors.

Project Overview

The ACT team reviewed the competitive situation. There are many tour operators in San Francisco, but none offer the depth and diversity of tours that SFCG does. Most also charge for their services. The team also reviewed the benefits that the San Francisco Tourism Bureau claims from visitation. Finally, the team drafted a survey that was completed by a small pilot sample of guests to evaluate how they feel about San Francisco, the possibility of returning to the neighborhood of the tour in order to explore more local businesses, and other economic activity.

Key Recommendations

Expand the pilot survey on tour benefits so that it covers one percent of total walkers (500 out of the 50,000 walkers annually) to see if the initial positive results are representative.

Key Conclusions

The pilot survey found that walkers who take a SFCG tour feel more comfortable in the tour’s neighborhood and are more likely to shop there afterward. Walkers also felt they were more likely to return to San Francisco as a result of the tour, and they had a greater appreciation for the city overall.

Final Report Outline

  • First steps – initial findings (competitive situation)
  • Findings – survey results
  • Recommendations – suggested infographic of benefits
  • Next steps – run a larger survey
  • Additional suggestions – potential partner foundations, etc.


Survey could be useful for other nonprofits looking to better characterize their benefits.*

*See sidebar.