In what I think is a fairly recent development, North American universities and other non-profit entities are using using the word advancement for fundraising, public relations, and related activities:
The Office of Advancement supports the mission of Georgetown University and its faculty and students through developing relationships with key constituencies.
Staff who work in the Office of Advancement have one mission: to move people to extraordinary levels of support for Queen's University.
The Office of Advancement is dedicated to supporting the mission of The University of Alberta by fostering relationships that result in continuing goodwill and financial support from alumni, parents, friends, and organizations.
The Office of Advancement will generate and develop the best relationships and resources to achieve Michigan Engineering objectives.
The University Advancement division promotes and supports the University of Toronto by engaging a worldwide community of alumni and friends in support of its work as one of the world's leading research universities.
Advancement Operations, with offices at 2080 Addison and 2000 Center Streets, develops and delivers the centralized business systems and services that support the work of UC Berkeley’s 30 decentralized fundraising units.
The Office of Advancement is the primary strategic link between The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and its principal constituencies.
Advancement Department — Helping Gordon College Grow.
On behalf of the university community, the Department of University Advancement creates and builds relationships with friends, supporters, and our worldwide network of proud Carleton graduates.
University Advancement is responsible for creating awareness, building relationships and generating support for UC Irvine’s teaching, research and public service missions.
The Office of College Advancement (Development & Foundations, Alumni Relations, College Relations) works to enhance, promote and support the Academic Programs, Research and Extension efforts of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences [at North Carolina State University].
University Advancement at Carnegie Mellon connects and builds community with alumni, raises funds that contribute to the university mission, manages university brand and reputation, as well as numerous other university functions.
The mission of University Advancement is to secure support for Michigan State University in terms of money, talent, service and advocacy by delivering an integrated program of communications, marketing and engagement.
Royall & Company Advancement Services is a new addition to the direct marketing programs Royall has been offering to colleges and universities for more than 20 years. We provide a proprietary communications strategy that will create and cultivate relationships to support total giving, including Annual Giving, while building a pipeline for Major Gifts.
Does anyone know who first had this (terminological) idea or where it originated? And has it been spreading by simple cultural contagion, or is there an organization or association that has been actively promoting the idea?
The term that I'm more familiar with is Development, which if anything is even less transparent, so I guess it also makes sense to ask when and where people started using development to mean "fundraising". The OED's entries for advancement and development are both innocent of these fundraising-related meanings; nor have I found any other dictionary that has caught on.
I haven't found any examples of for-profit companies re-naming their PR outfits as "Advancement Departments" or the like.
Update — Here's one in Australia:
The Advancement Office at the University of Melbourne aims to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of mutually beneficial relationships between the University and its alumni, friends and benefactors.