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CFRE...Why it is Worth It!

BY: Elizabeth Hefner, CFRE, Director of Advancement, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission

The Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification is something that I first learned of after joining AFP-GPC in 2011. 

I had recently joined the world of fundraising after leaving a career in Pharma. After living in Post Katrina New Orleans for a few years, my drive to help meet needs and close the gaps that our society and culture creates for the most vulnerable took hold of my heart. Fundraising was a path forward where I could serve people while using my analytical skills. 

With this career transition I was faced with a serious question - What is the best way to demonstrate to future employers and colleagues that I am a well rounded fundraiser who was knowledgeable of best practices?

My answer, become a  CFRE.  

What is the CFRE?

In 2017, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited CFRE certification under the ANSI/ISO/IEC 17024 standard for personnel certification programs, making the CFRE credential the world’s only accredited certification for philanthropic fundraising professionals.

At a basic level it is a two part process.

The Application: a demonstration of your experience (minimum 3 years)
1. EDUCATION - Degrees, Presentations, Continuing Education
2. PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE - How long have you been fundraising
3. PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE - How much funding have your raised

The Test:  a two hundred question test your knowledge of best practice across six domains
1. Current and Prospective Donor Research (14%–28 items)
2. Securing the Gift (23%–46 items)
3. Relationship Building (26%–52 items)
4. Volunteer Involvement (8%–16 items)
5. Leadership and Management (19%–38 items)
6. Ethics, Accountability, and Professionalism (10%–20 items)

Why CFRE? What other AFP-GPC members have to say about the CFRE

“When I first considered getting my CFRE, I was hesitant. Would spending the money really be worth it? Would I get anything out of it?

The answer to both questions is a definitive “yes.”

Having the CFRE has opened the door to an entire world of benefits I did not know were out there. Between the online forum and resources, and the knowledge gained from studying for the certification exam, I am more well-rounded than I was before.

"There is something to be said too for the confidence gained having the CFRE credential. Being good at what you do is great. Being certified in it is even better!”

-Dan Getman, CFRE, Senior Manager of Donor Relations, MANA

“As my fifth year as a CFRE winds down this spring, I’ve reflected on how the CFRE has impacted me professionally. I’ve seen the direct impact of those four letters next to my name on my resume, LinkedIn profile and signature line. Most importantly, Schultz & Williams partner Jane Williams, before her passing in 2017, hired me as a senior consultant for the firm, having been impressed by my previous development experience, and especially my credentials (I was a new CFRE!). I’ve also noticed how current and potential clients regard me as a seasoned development professional with a track record of success; trust that I can be a strong partner begins to grow immediately upon noting the CFRE credential. And, as someone who regularly hires consultants for our development practice, the first thing I look for is a CFRE, knowing all that is implied about a candidate when they can claim that credential.”

-Kelly Grattan, Ph.D., MBA, CFRE
Senior Consultant & Director, Consulting Operations, Data, Development
Schultz & Williams

"I decided to pursue CFRE certification to put me in a better position for career advancement and, more importantly, to become a better fundraiser. Preparing for the test is an excellent way for me to internalize in my mind the foundations of the profession so that I can better serve my donors and my organization’s mission. I’m an avid reader, so my main strategy for preparing has been looking at CFRE Internationals’ Study Plan Template on their website, and then reading the books where I have the biggest gaps in my knowledge.”

-Liz Marifino Fiola
2020 M. Jane Williams Award Winner
Advancement Officer
Williamson College of the Trades

4 Tips From a Recent CFRE

I became a CFRE in November 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed my exam by a full year.  As a “new” CFRE I wanted to share a few tips and tricks.

1. Open your CFRE application as soon as you decide to become a CFRE and log your continuing education as you go.  With each conference, seminar, or presentation record it in your application so you don’t have to track down 3 years of information after the fact.
2. The exam is designed to test your “best practice knowledge” so know that every answer on the 200 multiple choice question exam is correct.  You have to study so you can determine the MOST correct answer in a sea of good answers.
3. Be honest about the best ways for your to learn. I recommend the CFRE Refresher Course from AFP if you like a group learning environment.  I took the course and it was a huge help.  Find a study group online, there are a few good ones on Facebook.  Use flash cards, quizzes, or read books. Know that not every study tool is going to best for you and that is okay.
4. The official practice test is literally one 200 question test. Use these 200 practices questions wisely.  I used them in segments to help assess my confidence in each of the six domains.

I highly recommend leveraging the amazing network and resources available through AFP-GPC and AFP Global. Through these communities, I received invaluable study tips, education (programs and conference count toward your CFRE application), and true community of support.  

Now as a CFRE I have more than my experience I have an internationally recognized certification that showcases my experience, skills, and understanding of how to be a fantastic fundraising professional!

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