The CFRE is a practice-based credential

This means that CFRE exam questions are based on what fundraisers actually do every day but are framed against the broader context of professional knowledge that has been tested and measured within the international fundraising community and is considered best practice. This larger body of knowledge is collected by a professional testing agency using a detailed survey called a job analysis.

Using confidential surveys sent to both professionals holding the CFRE certification around the world and those who are not currently certified, the job analysis survey collects and details the actual day-to-day skills, tasks, and critical levels of understanding and task applications for professional fundraisers in each of the six different categories of the CFRE examination. Each exam question is both rooted in one of the task categories and referenced to at least one (and preferably two) specific and commonly accepted professional texts that support its correct answer.

Only those tasks performed most frequently or deemed most critical by the majority of respondents are included on the exam. This means the exam covers a broad base of fundraising knowledge. Candidates with a great deal of knowledge in one focused area will still need to have some familiarity with other areas of fundraising. Likewise, candidates need not feel they should be experts in every type of fundraising.

The most recent job analysis study, conducted in 2014, surveyed fundraising professionals in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The detailed results of this international survey underpin the current CFRE examination. The job analysis is updated every five years to assure the exam and the eligibility requirements reflect current fundraising practice. The next job analysis will be conducted in 2019.