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I have heard from a number of fundraisers that the test has not kept up to date with new trends on online giving. But I saw it as a challenge that moved me higher in my profession. Credentials are all about self-selection. It was a milestone. It felt good having it, it gave me a sense of progress and completion when I was still very uncertain.
Anything that helps fundraisers feel more proud, certain or gives them the confidence to stand up for the body of knowledge is a good thing in my books. Thanks for weighing in Tom! Like climbing a mountain simply because it is there. I do not have a CFRE, and along with the reasons noted above, I have found the cost to take the exam prohibitive.
I also have heard that there is little Canadian content, which makes me question the value of the investment. Sandra, out of curiosity — are you at a small shop? That is a reoccurring theme I am hearing among small shop fundraisers. I have over 20 years of experience in marketing. Almost half of that has been working in the nonprofit sector. The last 6 have specifically been in the area of fundraising through writing. I personally would encourage you to start the process, especially for the reasons started by Tom Ahern above.
That said, if you are someone who is always looking to learn and improve, people will notice that about you — CFRE or not. But for me, learning and doing have just been part of my daily life. Beyond the financial barriers, I think time playsa big factor too. Professionals with children especially single parents may not have the luxury of attending breakfast sessions or conferences — even if the money is there.
Rory, you nailed it when you said, the words; learning, Professional Development and that learning is life long. I fear in the UK, fundraising will be made into a academic profession and though we are mostly clever people, I believe a love of people, thoughtfulness and having the naturalskills to be a great fundraiser are far more important. With major donors the money often comes from the detail they give if you let them- that is!
A donors only wish is that you remember them, thank them and listen to their needs……. I believe if we invest in listening, courses and people- we will make great change in this world as fundraisers. Hi Rory. Simone here. I committed to certification because that was part of a profession. CFRE is not an educational program. The test is intended to show that you know the body of knowledge. The certification is not a testament that one is a good fundraiser. CFRE is a practice credential — and it has to be renewed. Translate into other languages.
Yes, that would be marvelous. While I cannot speak for CFRE International today, in my years on the board, we were unable to secure money to pay for translation. So ask Eva Aldrich about the progress in that arena. Previously CFRE was prohibited from raising charitable gifts for scholarships or translations. That may have changed now. I want voluntary certification, not government certification. Myself, I prefer essay tests. But essay testing is difficult.
Those are my thoughts. Simone, thank you for weighing in — you offer a great perspective and insight on the credential! I look forward to seeing what Eva has to say. Re: Country specific content, I agree that body of knowledge questions should trump government regulations. However, a few of the fundraisers I surveyed mentioned American content about tax regulations and tax receipts. I wonder if that is still the case for the test, or if it has changed?
It was very important to me to achieve the CFRE credential and hearing you validate it makes me feel like I made the right decision. Thank you so much! During the deepest point of the recession in I, along with two other people in my department, lost our jobs. In the middle of my job search I found out I was pregnant an unexpected, miraculous event after years of infertility.
When I tried to re-enter the job market after the birth of my daughter in it took me nearly 8 months to find full-time employment. I find it discouraging that while I work in a profession where women outnumber men AND women hold leadership positions in our professional credentialing association, the five-year rule is allowed to remain in force even as it disadvantages those of us who may have to leave the workforce for a year or two to take care of a child or elderly parents. I hope Ms. I decided to pursue my CFRE because there are few in my region, so I hope it will help with future job prospects.
That being said, I agree to the bad and ugly you have written Rory. There is cost barriers for small shops, but also access to professional development opportunities. I have had to travel for my professional development. Bottom line, true,anyone can study for an exam and pass — and still not be better fundraisers. Even in Med School, someone may lack bedside manner but receives their M. Sarah, that was a beautiful articulated reason to go for a CFRE. What difference would a CFRE make? You will always be a fundraiser and your actions speak more than those four letters.
Focus on what matters most, not on what other people think. Hi Lita, thank you for your comment. It sounds like you have a great deal of confidence in yourself — which I applaud — especially in fundraisers. However, often what matters most is how you see yourself. For some fundraisers the CFRE helps them find confidence in themselves, their profession and their abilities.
Fact is that in my country, there is not one CFRE. Does that mean us fundraisers over here are not professionals? Or that we do not approach our work in a professional way? For them the problem is the fee and the lack of possibilities for attending continuing education due to the high costs. And the fact that the educational offerings are all very USA and Canada orientated makes them wonder how can fundraisers throughout the world obtain the right education.
It looks like the cultural sensitivity is lacking at the moment. Donors people are different in every country and so is fundraising. And with that, the professionalism is different.
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Cost cannot be a factor as this is an investment in your professional development, like joining IOF, AFP, attending continuing education or a conference. It is a personal decision everyone makes on their own. And ultimately, that is the right decision for them. Hi Barbara, Thank you for weighing in! I want to challenge your assertion that cost cannot be a factor. Yes I absolutely agree that education and professional development is an investment that pays off. That said, many fundraisers I spoke to when researching this article talked about working for small non-profits with no PD funding — and no allowance to take time off to attend conferences and educational sessions.
Many were single parents or low income households that just could not afford to front the cost of that themselves. For those fundraisers, cost absolutely is a factor. I began pursuing my CFRE within weeks of my first fundraising job. Because I have a decade in communications, but the job I was hired for required me to have fundraising experience. They told me they would pay for me to work towards my designation.
I have since gone out on my own, and while I have not completely disregarded the idea of continuing work towards my CFRE, I have put it on pause and am very unsure if I will ever continue. This debate feels somewhat like any debate about education.
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If I was sitting around the table with my two brothers an architect and an engineer they would definitely have a few choice words about my degree in Medieval English. But for me, that education was by far the greatest thing I have given myself. Do CFREs get better jobs or better pay?
Do I enjoy the idea of an organisation dictating what education I need in order to be most valuable to them? Certainly not. In the end, I believe in lifelong learning. For some, this will look more like certifications and designations, as this type of pursuit fits with their learning style and needs as a learner. For others, it will be completely on site and or peer enhanced.
For others, the combination of both might not ever result in letters behind their name. Sheena, do you feel any pressure to pursue a CFRE as a consultant? Do you think it matters at all to potential clients? Or do your experience, track record and brand matter more? Good question, Rory. Currently, it does not seem to matter to my clientele. This is likely because the people I work with call on me for my writing and strategic communications, not fundraising strategy, though as we know the two are uniquely intertwined.
I will always continue to pursue my professional development, which heavily includes tracking down the best fundraising resources and maintaining membership in local and international fundraising groups such as AFP. I suppose I am less of a fundraiser and more of a fundraising conduit, stepping in to help open roadblocks with strong communications and information sharing. Would a CFRE help me with this? It does matter. I do agree with some of the comments regarding cost and a lack of updated reading recommendations. I think the CFRE process could do with an update and perhaps a bit more structured framework around the knowledge required.
Some chapters have an entire framework including mentoring and study groups and others offer nothing. These type of courses would be very helpful in preparing for the CFRE while building practical skills. The main strengths of the CFRE are the broad base of knowledge required to pass it and the ongoing education required to maintain it. I med with a medical lab technician the other day, who was lamenting that no ongoing PD is required to keep up their accreditation. I told him about the CFRE, and the ongoing work needed to maintain it — and I think he had a little more respect for what I do for a living.
Is this foolish? I spent two years working on my dissertation, writing about nonprofit sustainability. Would the CFRE actually be of assistance to my career? While others said it made no difference. If it gives you the confidence to apply for a new role, or ask to get a raise — then go for it. Ultimately, it is about the person — not the designation. Thank you! Later, when deciding whether or not to continue the coursework, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do and made the decision not to continue.
The coursework I had completed to date was sorely lacking in attention to anything remotely resembling donor-centered fundraising. No cliques or sororities for me.
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The Grow Report evolved out of a need to give fundraisers a tool to separate the online clickbait fundraising stuff, with what is real, and focused on long-term fundraising success. And my own membership program, Simple Development Systems, was created, in part, so there would be no cost barrier to effective training. Probably not. But clearly the decision to obtain certification is a very personal one. If you feel it will benefit you, it most likely will. Rory — I am going for it! Wish me luck! It sounds like you are pursuing a CFRE for all the right reasons. I hope it is a good experience for you, and deepens your connection to the profession.
Do keep up updated on how the process is for you! My organization, ALDE, does a biannual Compensation Survey, and we found some pretty interesting results about certified members. That is really interesting. Again, while it may not be the CFRE itself that gets the higher wages, ig having a CFRE empowers fundraisers to stand up for their own value — I think that is a really positive thing.
I will offer another perspective on Bad 2. It actually did mean something to some of my donors…the ones who also have a professional certification in their field e. They would see the CFRE on my card and ask what it was. When I explained it was certification for our industry, they got it immediately and totally respected that I cared enough about what I did to go through a certification like they had.
Lisa, I have to imagine it has the same effects with boards, mission staff and leadership too! Afterwards, I encountered a lot of ambivalence or even dismissals from fundraising colleagues—unless they, too, had either gotten their CFRE or were working towards it. I never saw any sort of professional or financial benefit from it, myself. My experience and track record held much more weight. It was often a conversation starter when someone saw it on my business card, but only briefly. As a result, the requirements to keep it up and the associated expenses , were a drawback for me.
I debated about getting my CFRE for about 10 years. Some days I wanted it, others I could care less. I eventually ended the debate and went for it. I truly think it is a personal decision each fundraiser needs to make for themselves. There will always be pros and cons — you have to decide which have greater influence over your decision. How can I not jump into this conversation? The study buddies program I was part of led to lifelong friends and clients…and my current job. Perhaps a French version of the test should be on the agenda? As I mentioned on my Twitter response, I have met l of the required benchmarks except the continuing ed.
I have also paid for education myself when possible. I know many successful fundraisers but none of them have their CFRE. I look at it as more of a personal achievement than a professional requirement.
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Hi all! The three biggest reasons I went for it, in order of most important to least to me :. This may be the case for you, and it may not. Either way, classes are self-reported now and MUCH easier to slot in than in the past. Some boards and directors of development especially the larger organizations are looking at proposals and trying to find the one they like the most, or at least trying to knock others off the ledge by finding excuses. Some aspects of the test were a little frustrating in terms of key terms and CFRE specific definitions. I mean, yes, you study for those but still.
I would also have liked to see more online knowledge on display. Experience and continuing ed credits are the highest bar for many. Hi Peter, Thank you for that incredible comment — and sharing your experience. You lay out an amazing case for getting a CFRE. I once had a boss suggest I pretend to have a baby, cut my hair short and wear fake glasses to look older. Compared to all that, getting a CFRE sounds much easier…. I agree with the comments about it being expensive cost of test and the pro-d spending required to get your points.
I did a college program in fundraising, but a few years later decided it was time to CFRE. The test was nuts — the studying I did made almost no difference — and seemed to be very focused on capital campaigns and planned giving. As a fundraiser, I cut my teeth working for small grassroots organizations. As a small shop fundraiser, I found it incredibly frustrating how looked down upon or judged or misunderstood fundraising in our shops was.
We are bonafide generalists. We know how to fix the toilet in our office when it breaks AND raise 40K through a new special event AND how to build a digital donor file from scratch AND how to process a bajillion pieces of mail. As someone who is young, looks young and talks young, I opted to obtain my CFRE to advance my career. And yes, it was driven by money as a motivator.
While I love small shops, I was tired of being underpaid. And have any of you Canadians noticed how many jobs now have a CFRE as a requirement or as preference? For small shops, it was a stamp of approval that I was proficient and knew what I was doing. And, how you do things in a small shop world and a major gift world are often light years apart. We need standards, we need best practices, but frankly, we may need to have a professional certification program that actually now takes us beyond self-regulation.
But to get there, I think we really need to broaden the body of knowledge a fundraiser requires to demonstrate competence i. Because there should be a bar that sets those who are part of a body of self-regulating professionals be that CFRE or something else apart from others who are not part of that professional body. And most definitely a bar once a profession becomes regulated. Hi Rory, and thank you for a fantastic blog that has stimulated such an interesting discussion and brought forth so many perspectives and experiences!
However, the area of Professional Practice counts points within the last eight years to account for leaves, illness, transition time between jobs, etc. It was the vision and drive of leaders like Simone Joyaux who recognized the importance of having an autonomous credentialing body for fundraisers which resulted in the independence of CFRE International.
That leads me to Part 2 about exam questions. Yes, some of the questions are flawed — but those do get weeded out as part of a regular and thorough review process. But building on what Simone said on this, questions based on best practice and multiple choice helps level the playing field for those taking the exam and makes the marking of same less subjective. For me, getting my CFRE in was a personal goal for a professional purpose. I paid for everything myself, and had to take vacation days to study for and write the exam. To say I was elated when I received my score would be an understatement I screamed and then burst into tears , but I self-identify through my work so others may not have had the same visceral reaction.
Per point 3, while the CFRE does not make more donations magically appear, it is a great conversation starter with prospects. It provides you with the opportunity to tale about commitment to the profession, ethics, and general competence. These are all things that make prospects more comfortable. I got my CFRE many years ago, and have recertified several times. So, it means something to me personally more than anything else.
Comparing this to other fields that have certification like CPIM etc. Certification is an instrument often used to raise the lower edge of the skills distribution in a field. Experience often trumps exam results, and a test can only test so much. This aligns with some of the comments here. How do you test attitude, common sense, empathy, perseverance, pragmatism — all characteristics of a good fundraiser at least in my experience? In my ideal world, there is a common vocabulary of terms and processes RFM, acquisition, lifetime value, retention, storytelling, donor journey, … which make up the basics of what you really need to know to be a serious fundraiser.
Call that fundraising no pun intended. Entry level, required for entry to the profession. Next is a senior level, which requires experience and practical work, typically applied to a specific subdomain donor relations, fundraising financials, direct marketing, …. Finally, master classes, which are intended for thoe who specialise in a particular function or field, something which smaller outfits typically cannot afford to have in house, while they can and will contract out for specific guidance and consultancy.
A FR consultant would use these master classes-level certificates as a more objective reference of competence.
I think I will probably eventually get my CFRE, but I will certainly do so for different reasons than it may be designed for. To me, the idea of getting my designation speaks to my competitive nature, and my desire to push myself for my own personal satisfaction. Just my experience though. Great topic, and really great comment party : Thanks for starting it! What a fantastic waste of time! My first suggestion to CFRE would be to improve the user experience of the online application process….
Thanks for your comment, and sharing your perspective. I did it about a year ago for the reasons below. Similar to Tom above, I climbed the mountain because it was there. I was curious if I could do it and it was important to me to test myself. It was an opportunity to force myself to think and learn about our field. Often we get lost in the day to day — raising that next dollar, prepping that next meeting, planning that next event.
Preparing for the CFRE forced me to pick my head up and look around and think about my work and how I could do it better.
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I wanted to set an example. At the time I was serving in a leadership position at a large national organization I felt would benefit from opening itself to more knowledge and education. CFRE seemed like a good objective to set for our fundraisers but required me to set the example. I am proud of the number of fundraisers in the organization that followed that lead and have achieved the designation.
I believe in the professionalization of our field. We do serious and important work. I have not been disappointed. But I do know I have taken personal satisfaction from the designation and have been proud to encourage others to do the same and am a better fundraiser for having spent the prep time thinking about my work. I have a number of issues with the CFRE designation, but my primary one is that fundraising is a team sport and this credential requires one taking ownership for every dime raised, every hour logged.
AFP does not come close to representing the profession, such as it is. Valid points, Jim. Thanks Rory for a great blog raising some really big issues on a genuinely important subject. And what a fascinating discussion! But I appreciate such an undertaking would be neither easy, nor quick. For all commenters- Please feel free to share with the CFRE staff and board your issues and concerns. The board is a board of your peers.
And there are young members on the board Heather McGinness that are giving voice to the concerns of younger or new to the profession fundraisers. If you manage a fundraising staff- Pay for your staff to be certified and require a 12 month commitment to stay after passing the exam or the fee must be reimbursed to the organization. The cost of turnover which is unfortunately high in this profession is way more expensive than the cost of the exam. And if the person leaves, you get your money back. Investing in staff lowers turnover, increases productivity, improves morale, and improves the professionalism of your staff.
Jeff thank you for weighing in, and reminding us that the CFRE is run by real live human beings — fundraisers — who want the credential to be relevant and well respected. I also LOVE your challenge to managers to pay for certification. I will remember that for when I have my own staff one day! Maybe you could try reimbursement as an alternative to paying your staff to work towards attaining CFRE. Then they have skin in the game. On a personal note and as a 7 times recertifier, we still have an acceptance issue around CFRE.
It needs to be recognised as being valuable by employers, recruiters and fundraisers. My commitment to the credential is unwavering but it does have a perception issue and, BTW, cost is a major consideration to small shops and to fundraisers. First of all, is there anyone out there who does NOT like Rory?! As far as the post- I live in Israel. It also means that the whole fundraising sector here is different- people work on percentages, potentially have little experience and few opportunities for professional development.
Mixed bag. I want someone who can do the job. So just keep bein you, Rory. You have a glorious future ahead of you as Queen of Tumblr! And a fundraiser too :. I have met fundraisers without who understand their craft without it. Certifications are tools. If you have the base concepts, they provide new tools to use, new ideas, etc. I can tell you how a hammer works. That a hammer uses its weight and momentum to put nails into wood.
But if you cannot possibly understand how to physically wield it, that theory does nothing for you. You might be able to regurgitate what I have told you on a test, but you cannot build a house. I believe the best fundraisers are the ones who have the strongest desires for change, who are passionate about their causes , who are activist and innovators. No qualification can teach empathy , will power , grit and off course most importantly character.
However we missing a point , social change is complex and not that logical. I would not hire a perfect fundraiser , i would hire a great troublemaker , because i know my investment is greater with that troublemaker , because real change is desired in a way that helps to reach the vision of the organisation.
Thank you for writing this Rory. As a fundraiser who only has a few years experience I have been weighing the options about going forward with the certification. I have heard all of the above arguments; for and against, and challenges in the past. The comments below would solidify my feeling that it proves there is a body of knowledge.
I struggle with if everyone with a CFRE practices this body of knowledge. Or not worth the investment? Like you, I completed the Humber program which provided me with a lot of hands on knowledge. I guess you could say I am still undecided. I am going to do it. Not for what is in it for me, but because of what it means to the profession — as many referenced above.
I also have the PD funds to do conferences and seminars to build credits. So there is less investment needed on my end. On the one side, yes we should absolutely be encouraging professionalism. So many fundraisers around the world are reinventing the wheel over and over again at great cost to their charities. I would not like to see fundraising go the same way, and Masters degrees become base-level requirements for first fundraising jobs. Even if you understand theoretically that a certain approach may work better than another, it takes an experiential leap to be brave and put that theoretical knowledge into practice.
What a great debate. To my mind, certification satisfies one or several of these needs: knowledge, confidence, challenge and recognition. Whether someone has those needs, and whether certification is the way to satisfy them will be quite a personal thing. Experience wins over qualifications any day.
Thank you to everyone who supported our bake sale today! All proceeds will go towards putting on events for nursing students in the coming semesters. Good luck with exams and have a good summer! Our first Annual General Meeting starts in 10 min!!! SW3 Feel free to drop in to see what we do and help us elect our new executive and have some left over treats. Lots of fun was had at the Sun Run today!
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