How did you enter fundraising?
During my senior year at my alma mater, Erskine College, I served as President of the Student Body and worked extensively with the Advancement/Alumni Office.
I was intrigued by their work and was looking to take a gap year after deciding not to pursue law school. They hired me as a Gift Coordinator right after graduation.
After a few months on the job working with alumni, I knew I’d found my professional calling. Building relationships and advancing a cause I believe in was (and still is) an exceptionally rewarding component of my career. That all came about because my Alumni Office nurtured and guided my interest.
The two biggest challenges I faced in my first fundraising role were: (1) adapting to a new body of nonprofit industry knowledge which I had no prior experience in and (2) mastering the art of building trust.
As a young professional in fundraising, how do you think nonprofits can do a better job of connecting with millennials and attracting them as donors?
Studies like the Millennial Impact Report have shown that millennials are much more loyal to a cause than to an organisation, are engaged through multiple channels of communication, enjoy instant gratification for making a gift, have a high expectation of transparency, are very busy, and want to feel like they are making a difference.
I think nonprofits can do a better job of providing forums for millennial donors to come together around an organisation’s cause, providing a sense of networking and community.
Additionally, I think nonprofits can enhance their reputation as an organisation which values personal relationships with their donors.
If millennials know they will be valued and respected, they, like most other donor demographics, are more likely to stay engaged with an organisation over time.
How did you first hear about the CFRE credential and what made you decide to pursue it?
I recently completed a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropy and Development at LaGrange College.
I first learned about the CFRE credential from the peers in my cohort and was strongly encouraged to start my CFRE application. I have found experience to be the most valuable tool for fundraisers, so while I lacked longevity in the fundraising industry, I felt that the CFRE credential would add to my credibility and advance my career.
Its distinction as the global standard for nonprofit certifications set it apart from other memberships and designations.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you prepared for the exam?
My coursework in the LaGrange College Master’s degree in Philanthropy and Development was the single greatest help in preparing for the CFRE exam.
After exploring some of the online resources about the structure of the exam, I felt confident enough from my coursework at LaGrange to take the exam without other preparation and passed with flying colors. One of my peers in the LaGrange program who had her CFRE mentored me through the application process.
That program has been instrumental in my development as a fundraising professional and gave me the confidence to pursue the CFRE.
Did you find that studying for the exam helped you learn information that was helpful to you in your day-to-day fundraising job? If so, what?
Yes, absolutely. I found all of the exam resources on the CFRE website to be very helpful to my day-to-day fundraising job.
The reading list provides a wealth of knowledge from some of the brightest minds in the field – many of which I had from my Philanthropy and Development coursework for my master’s degree. The test content outline offers a convenient metric for measuring our organisation’s overall fundraising program. I keep a copy of the Donor Bill of Rights on the wall in my office.
What advice would you have for fundraisers who are in the first five – 10 years of their career who are trying to determine if they should pursue becoming a CFRE?
My advice would be to pursue your CFRE as soon as possible. Start your application right now if you don’t already have a CFRE account.
I have found no other credential or designation so uniformly recognised as a standard for excellence in the nonprofit community. The CFRE designation will set your resume apart if you are pursuing a job. It will give you something unique to talk about in a job interview. It will communicate to donors and to your coworkers that you value ethical standards and are a professional in your field, and it will enhance the reputation of your organisation.
Your years of experience as a fundraiser will always be your greatest professional asset, but you have limited control over that. You can invest right now in your future by becoming a CFRE.