Cara Morrison, CFRE, is a marketing manager at a nonprofit in New South Wales, Australia. She shares her experience in preparing for the CFRE exam. 

You earned your CFRE in early 2018. What motivated you to pursue your CFRE? 

I had been considering doing my CFRE for a while. I strongly believe that education and formal qualifications or certifications play a big part in professionalising fundraising.

There is a growing number of CFRE holders in Australia and I felt that it would be good for my professional development as well as my future career prospects.

Were your boss and co-workers familiar with the CFRE? If so, did they support you in any special way in pursuing it? 

My manager was familiar with CFRE and supported me in completing. It’s not a particularly well known in our organisation so I’m hoping that my completion might encourage others to consider it.

The CFRE office is often asked how long it takes to study for the exam. While everyone is different, could you share the length of time you found was ideal for preparing? 

It took me about a year from when I started my application to completing my exam, but this was more to do with a massive CRM project that came along during that time than the CFRE process itself. Over the course of the year I read through Achieving Excellence in Fundraising a few times. In the six weeks leading up to the exam I did more review and also signed up for the practice exam.

What methods did you use to study and prepare for the exam (e.g., part of a study group, setting aside a special time each week to study, using the practice exam, attending a prep course, flash cards)? Which do you think was most useful? 

I joined the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) study group, which I found really useful. It gave me a deadline for regularly reading chapters and helped stop me procrastinating. It was also really useful to share notes and discuss the content with other industry colleagues who had a variety of experience.

I also used the practice exam which was useful. Just be careful not to fall into the trap of learning all the questions in the practice exam.

It can be hard for working professionals to carve out time to study and keep good study habits. How did you do it? 

I struggled with this the most and ended up rescheduling my exam to give me more time as I was working on a big project and found it hard to find time to study as well. Once the project had settled down I booked time in the weekends to study and tried to stick to it.

It got easier as the exam got closer because I knew I needed to do it or risk failing. The study group was really useful as it gave me deadlines that I had to meet, so if you’re not good at maintaining a study schedule I recommend a little bit of external pressure.

When you woke up on exam day, what thoughts were going through your mind? 

I was definitely nervous, but I felt like I had done quite a bit of preparation and my results on the practice exam suggested that I was ready.

I try to avoid doing any last minute cramming as that increases your nerves, so I just tried to relax and be confident in what I knew.

Can you describe the feeling you had when you found out you had passed the exam? 

I was so relieved. Because my study had been dragged over such a long period I was really relieved that I had finally got around to sitting the exam.

I wished I had done it sooner!