Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Nonprofit Organization
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) advances philanthropy by enabling people and organizations to practice ethical and effective fundraising. The core activities through which AFP fulfills this mission include education, training, mentoring, research, advocacy and certification programs.

Pat Bjorhovde and Jacklyn P. Boice

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), representing more than 30,000 members in 213 chapters throughout the world, advances philanthropy by enabling people and organizations to practice ethical and effective fundraising. The core activities through which AFP fulfills this mission include education, training, mentoring, research, advocacy, and certification programs.

Historic Roots
Benjamin Sklar of Brandeis University, William R. Simms of the National Urban League, and Harry Rosen of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies had long considered the need for a national association of fundraisers, and their discussions led to the idea of the National Society of Fund Raisers (NSFR). These three recruited Dr. Abel A. Hanson, general secretary of Teacher’s College at Columbia University, who had written a monograph on fundraising, to serve as the first president. NSFR was officially chartered in New York on June 21, 1960. The mission of the organization was defined in its Articles of Incorporation:

  • To aid fundraisers in the performance of their professional duties
  • To unite those engaged in the profession of fundraising
  • To formulate, promote, and interpret to organizations, agencies, and the public, the objectives of fundraising and the role of those who practice it
  • To promote and maintain high standards of public service and conduct
  • To exchange ideas and experiences and to collect and disseminate information of value to fundraisers and the public
  • To encourage and sponsor the granting of awards and fellowships in recognized institutions of learning for study and research in the field of fundraising
  • To promote, sponsor, and encourage study, research and instruction in the field of fundraising by means of courses in established institutions of learning and by other means

Over the next 50 years, AFP grew exponentially, with chapters now existing throughout the United States and in Canada, Asia, and Africa, and the association has developed strategic partnerships with fundraising organizations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. The organization went through two name changes to better reflect its expanding constituents and programs, becoming the National Society for Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE) in 1977 and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in 2001.

The association’s major accomplishments include the creation and implementation of the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, A Donor Bill of Rights, National Philanthropy Day®, the Awards for Philanthropy, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential (now an independent credentialing agency), the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) credential, and the largest annual fundraising conference in the world. AFP’s programs, services, and educational offerings have grown as well, and now include the Resource Center, research studies, numerous publications, Youth in Philanthropy, collegiate chapters, Webconferences, ethics think tanks, and the Faculty Training Academy, to name a few.

AFP believes that to guarantee human freedom and social creativity, people must have the right to freely and voluntarily form organizations to meet perceived needs, advocate causes and seek funds to support these activities. To guarantee these rights, AFP’s purposes are to:

  • Foster development and growth of fundraising professionals committed to the preserving and enhancing of philanthropy
  • Establish a code of ethics and professional practices
  • Require member adherence to a professional code of ethical standards and practices, which are strictly enforced
  • Provide training opportunities for fundraising professionals
  • Implement programs that ensure cultural and social diversity in its membership and leadership
  • Collect, research, publish, and disseminate historical, managerial, and technical information on philanthropy and philanthropic fundraising
  • Promote public understanding of philanthropy and philanthropic fundraising
  • Enlist, organize, and support members to achieve the association’s purposes
  • Foster international cooperation, knowledge exchange, and education among fundraising professionals worldwide
  • Use all necessary and proper means to accomplish the association’s purposes
  • Provide a valid and reliable certification program for fundraising professionals

AFP encourages people of all ages to participate in the philanthropic process and to volunteer and give time, expertise, or money to the nonprofit organizations in their own communities that provide valuable services and enrich the quality of life.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
AFP is directly tied to the philanthropic sector. It is an organization whose members are primarily professional fundraisers who work for and on behalf of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations that serve enormous human needs, create solutions to difficult medical problems, provide excellence and opportunities in education and the arts, underwrite programs for children, and ensure care for animals and the environment. Through the work of its members, as well as its own contributions to the training and education of fundraisers, the body of knowledge about fundraising, the spread of ethical standards worldwide, and the support of laws that encourage charitable giving, AFP is inextricably tied to the philanthropic sector.

Key Related Issues

  • Certification. In 1980, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) program came into being, and in 1981, the first full year of the certification program, the CFRE credential was awarded to 166 professionals in the United States and Canada. In 1993, the first Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) credential was conferred.
  • Diversity. AFP declared that it would “embrace and engage diverse individuals, groups and organizations within the fundraising profession” as one of its six major goals. Toward that goal, AFP established the Diverse Communities program to enable various self-identified groups to create communities within AFP both online and in person to network and learn from one another. The program provides opportunities for members from diverse backgrounds to connect with one another while remaining part of the overall association as a whole.
  • Ethical fundraising. The need for a professional code of ethics was one of the original driving forces behind the formation of the National Society of Fund Raisers, and the code remains the cornerstone of the organization today. AFP’s ethics initiatives extend well beyond enforcing the code on AFP members. In 1993, NSFRE, AHP, CASE, and AAFRC issued A Donor Bill of Rights, which spells out principles that donors should expect from charities and is now used and cited around the world. AFP also helped propose and draft the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising, which organizations in 24 countries endorsed in 2006.
  • Government relations. Over the years, U.S. federal and state lawmakers and officials made recurring efforts to regulate philanthropic fundraising and enact policies—primarily through the tax laws—that would have the effect of curtailing philanthropy. NSFR found it necessary to become involved in government relations to educate lawmakers and regulators about the benefits to society made possible by voluntary philanthropy and the key role that philanthropic fundraisers play in making that happen. Today AFP continues to work with and educate lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Canada on a regular basis.
  • International relations. The association’s leaders have advocated for allowing substantial local autonomy and various degrees of affiliation with AFP for fundraisers and fundraising organizations in other countries, and this approach has stood AFP well. The association has delivered educational initiatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America; advised on the development of regulatory structures in Asia and Brazil; introduced new forms of membership designed to make AFP accessible to all; and developed web-based resources to provide maximum benefit to fundraisers worldwide.
  • Professional advancement and tomorrow’s leaders. One of AFP’s key future goals will be to identify, attract and train the next generation of fundraising leaders and nonprofit executives. At the same time, with fundraising now being recognized by students and the public as a career, and colleges and universities offering courses, certificates and degree programs in fundraising and nonprofit management, AFP is looking to ensure new people continue to enter the field with the appropriate knowledge and skill sets.
  • Research. The founders of NSFR viewed scientifically based information as a necessary component of a true profession, and research was consequently one of the first purposes of NSFR. NSFRE established the annual Skystone Ryan Prize for Research on Philanthropy and Fundraising in 1989, and in 1990 the Research Council, composed of researchers with advanced degrees, was created to plan and guide NSFRE’s research efforts.

Important People Related to the Topic
The association has been fortunate to have outstanding leadership in its 50 year history. Volunteers from organizations large and small in the United States, Canada and Mexico have given considerable time and talent to ensure the association’s success.
Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • A Vision for and a Brief History of Youth Philanthropy by Katherine Hahn Falk and Luana G. Nissan. Editors: Patricia O. Bjorhovde and Dwight F. Burlingame, 2007
  • AFP: The First 50 Years by Bill Harrison, 2010
  • AFP 50th Anniversary Scrapbook by Jacklyn P. Boice, 2010      
  • AFP 50th anniversary video prepared by Rich Tolsma Productions, 2010    
  • Pettey, Janice Gow (editor). Ethical Fundraising: A Guide for Nonprofit Boards and Fundraisers(AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series). John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-0-470-22521-9

© Association of Fundraising Professionals and Learning To Give. All rights reserved. Except for one-time classroom use, reprinting, adapting, or Web-based reproduction requires express permission.