Twenty-five years ago, books, microfiche, and dial-up were the tools of the trade of the emerging profession of research for fundraising. Rapidly-growing numbers of development researchers used typewriters and – for some, at least – the new technology of word processing to compile the reports on prospective donors demanded by modern fundraising culture. There was no Internet for researchers to use; that would not begin to happen until the late-1990s. So, while this was certainly not the Dark Ages, the information and knowledge environment for prospect research was quite different than today.
In 1987, the growing body of development researchers came together to organize themselves into associations that could provide education, training and networking. In New England, researchers in the Boston area – who had been meeting informally for several years – decided to formalize the community of researchers. These Boston researchers reached out to development offices throughout New England to come together to form the aptly-named New England Development Research Association. Beginning with 15 members in mid-1987, NEDRA grew rapidly to more than 100 members within a year.
The organizing and incorporation of NEDRA in 1987 coincided with efforts in other parts of the United States to organize development researchers. Growing from an organization of researchers in Minnesota, the American Prospect Research Association – now the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement – was also organized in 1987, and legally incorporated in 1988. While APRA expanded to organize chapters throughout the United States and in Canada, NEDRA focused on the rapidly-expanding research community in the six New England states. Since 1987, both NEDRA and APRA have grown steadily side-by-side. In 1995, when NEDRA chose to become formally associated with APRA as its chapter for New England, it immediately became APRA’s largest chapter, surpassing California.
So, 1987 was a pivotal year in the development of the profession of advancement research. In recognition of NEDRA’s 25 years as an organization, during 2012 we will be celebrating our Silver Anniversary by taking a look at how research has both changed and remained constant over the years. We will acknowledge the contributions of our organization’s and profession’s leaders, feature classic articles from past issues of NEDRA News on the NEDRA website, invite researchers to share their experience as members of NEDRA, and highlight notable events from NEDRA’s first 25 years. We may even unearth old photographs for a few giggles and grins!
Our first retrospective offering is the first issue of NEDRA News. Published in the fall of 1987, this issue gives the story of NEDRA’s pre-history, so to speak, and how the organization came to be founded. (In continual publication since that first issue, it is very appropriate to start with NEDRA News, as it is the oldest professional publication devoted to advancement research.) Beginning in February, we will continue to post other items from NEDRA’s past on our website as we celebrate 25 years of professional leadership.
On a personal note, this anniversary year is notable for me, as I entered the development field just a few months after NEDRA was formally organized. I got my first research job in October 1987 and promptly attended NEDRA’s first organized event, a panel discussion on ethics held at Bentley University.
David M. Sterling
Director of Advancement Operations
Western New England University
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