For those interested, in the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential, the most often asked question is, “How do I prepare for the application and the exam?”
Well, for starters, the CFRE is the first globally recognized credential for fundraising. The CFRE is an educational program, not affiliated with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). It has rigorous practical experience requirements and tests on a number of core components above and beyond general techniques and practices including ethics, management, and leadership.
According to the CFRE website, applications for Initial Certification require candidates to document information in three categories: Education, Professional Practice, and Professional Performance. The application works on a point system. Candidates must record a minimum number of points in each of the three categories to be approved to take the CFRE examination.
With its stringent requirements, it is not a process that you can expect to attempt and complete within a year. However, there are steps that you can take to begin to prepare for your application and the exam.
Here are some simple steps you can take today to start preparing for your CFRE certification:
1 – If you are currently not employed as a fund development professional in the field, you must begin to make that transition. Find a full-time position as a fund development professional. CFRE candidates must have full-time employment where 50% of their job duties are focused on direct practical fundraising experience. This work must have taken place within the past five years and 1 month of employment = 1 application point.
2 – Since the CFRE has a stringent practical experience component, begin documenting your practical experience, create a spreadsheet tracking actual monies raised, and projects completed. You can also start an account directly on the CFRE website and begin tracking your points automatically there. I would highly recommend that you keep a folder with portfolio of all relevant project samples and with backup to demonstrate monies raised. So, things such as development audits, development plans, stewardship plans, Case for Supports, grant applications, budget’s showing actual numbers, etc.
The CFRE award points for actual funds raised, communication projects, and management projects.
3 – Education is an essential component of the application. Keep track of all workshops, conferences, degrees, presentations, etc. that you attend. Focus on attending educational events that are CFRE approved. Again, keep a record of all workshops attended through maintaining registration forms, CFRE trackers, session handouts, etc. to document actual attendance. Points are awarded for continuing education both as an attendee and as a presenter, authoring articles, and academic degrees. Some non-fundraising-related continuing education is allowed up to a maximum of 10 points, and they must focus on developing skills as a professional i.e., management, leadership, etc..
4 – Since Service Learning is a part of the application, it is vital that you seek out volunteer work separate from your employment or contractual obligations with an organization. Find a local group that needs assistance and sit on their Board, Development Committee, or special event committee. Local AFP chapters are natural places where you can fulfill this Service Learning component and give back to the profession.
5 – Review CFRE materials including the Candidate Handbook, Test Content Outline, and Resource Reading List as part of your preparation for the CFRE exam. Local AFP chapters also hold CFRE preparation courses. If you meet all of the requirements for the application, the CFRE assumes that you have the knowledge to take and pass the exam. Many individuals undergo a rigorous study process before the test. It is all personal. I, myself, did not but I had been in the field for quite a number of years before and had a vast library of fundraising materials that I kept current.
For those who are undergoing recertification, these steps also apply to you. Just this past December, I was audited during my recertification process and I was required to provide physical documentation of my projects and monies raised. Don’t get lax with the online recertification process. One in ten application for recertification are selected randomly for an audit, and you have approximately 30 days to provide documentation.
In developing a plan to obtain your certification, be sure to document, document, document, and document again. Each month or unit counts. And, since you can only go back five years prior to the initial application, documentation becomes even more critical. By following these simple steps above, you are ensuring your success when it comes time to apply for the CFRE process and to sit for the exam. Certification will not happen overnight and takes years of preparation.