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History of The AFP Fundraising Dictionary

Resource Center - Foundation


Since its inception in 1965, The Association of Fundraising Professionals (formerly NSFRE) has recognized its responsibility for helping to define the fundraising profession. The first iteration addressing this goal was the Glossary of Fund-Raising Terms, published in 1976 and containing approximately 355 terms and definitions. The rapid growth of the fundraising profession inspired an updated version in 1986, which nearly tripled the size of the glossary.

In preparation for the next ten-year update, the Dictionary Task Force was appointed in the fall of 1993 and charged with capturing the vastly increased breadth and scope of today's fundraising profession. The significance of the responsibility accepted by this group was exceeded only by the respect and admiration of our predecessors. A debt of gratitude is owed to all of them, and to Patricia F. Lewis, CFRE, past president and CEO of NSFRE. Both she and her predecessor, J. Richard Wilson, CFRE, recognized the vital importance of defining this profession and committed the resources necessary ensure the publication of the previous glossaries and the current dictionary.

The purpose of this publication is to provide a current authoritative resource for those practicing in the profession and for those who may find it necessary to understand the meanings and implications of terms used in the day-to-day fundraising field. Some entries in this dictionary clearly have definitions related to usage not defined in this work. It was never our intent to replace any standard dictionary. Rather, we sought to appropriately define those terms that we use in our profession.

The implied changes in the evolution of this work from a glossary into a dictionary include the increased number of terms defined and the employment of a lexicographer to provide information about the forms, functions, and syntactical uses of terms. Given the international activities of AFP, it was deemed appropriate to include terms used in the business of fundraising in all English-speaking countries, and the different uses of certain terms found in more than one country.

Determining the criteria for terms to be included was the first challenge. As professional fundraisers, we employ terminology from many professional fields including accounting, law, management, printing, and publishing, as well as management information systems. As this profession has grown over the past decade, it has been greatly influenced by economic, societal, and technological changes. These changes are all reflected in the increased number of terms included in this publication. Throughout its two years of work, the task force was concerned that the primary criteria remain firm: that the terms included are used by those practicing the profession of fund raising; and that the definition of each term reflects only that which is applicable to its fundraising use.

The Dictionary Task Force debated many of the entries long and hard. We researched, we argued, we drafted and redrafted until we were convinced that we had exhausted every resource and defined every entry to reflect the most complete definition possible. And just as we thought we had the task in hand, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued not only new regulations but a new set of definitions to accompany them.

The evolving nature of this work has become abundantly clear. Further, the cornerstone provided by the two iterations of the Glossary of Fund-Raising Terms has served the profession well. The goal of this task force has been to articulate for our colleagues, their volunteers, and all others seeking assistance in this field, expanded and definitive resource that will further their understanding of the growing profession of fundraising.

This second edition demonstrates the commitment of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to providing the highest quality services and products to our members and other constituents. From 1965 to 2003 this organization has kept its members current in the ever-evolving language of our profession. It is often said that computer technology has the shelf life of milk. One might apply this analogy to the dictionary as well. It is no sooner published than new technology, regulations and other such change drivers provide incentives to update this work.

While the Dictionary Task Force believed it had put the age old debate of the spelling of fundraising to once again came to the fore as common usage and twisted our arms to reconsider. The title of this work illustrates acceptance of common usage as one word.

As in the first edition the committee maintained the original criteria for inclusion in this work: that the terms included are used by those practicing the profession of fundraising; and that the definition of each term reflects only that which is applicable to its fundraising use. We are proud to present this professional resource to our growing membership (now at 26,000). May you and your constituents find answers and resolution to the questions of language in this evolving profession.

Barbara R. Levy, ACFRE
Editor and Chair
The AFP Dictionary Task Force

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