CFRE® – Your Confident Choice for Fundraising Planning & Execution

When you entrust a Certified Fund Raising Executive® (CFRE) with responsibility for your organization’s fundraising you can be confident that they’re equipped to do more than secure a gift.  Because a CFRE understands the breadth of philanthropic fundraising, they are strategic leaders and managers who help your organisation’s fundraising prosper. With certified knowledge of the importance of relationship building as well as ethics and accountability, a CFRE will work to grow your organisation’s long-term sustainability through exceptional donor service.

A fundraiser who has achieved CFRE certification has successfully demonstrated their competence, credibility, and commitment to philanthropic fundraising by successfully completing CFRE International’s multi-part certification process which is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

This process consists of:

  • An application documenting Education, Professional Practice, Professional Performance, and Service to the philanthropic sector
  • Achievement of a passing score on the CFRE examination
  • Regular re-certification in 3 year cycles through continued documentation of continuing education, professional practice & performance, and service.

A Practice Based Assessment

Unlike certificate programs offered by educational institutions, nonprofits, and for-profit firms, CFRE certification is based in fundraising practice. It is not an educational program intended to teach individuals how to raise funds. Rather, it is an experience based assessment process that measures the candidate’s knowledge and skills in best practices in ethical philanthropic fundraising. The assessment begins with the initial application for CFRE certification.

The application requirements are met through a point system. Candidates must document a verifiable minimum number of points in each of four categories in order to be approved to write the CFRE examination.

  • Education – including academic degrees, qualified continuing education (attended or taught), and authoring
  • Professional Practice – verifiable employment as a professional member of a fundraising staff or as a fundraising consultant to nonprofit organisations
  • Professional Performance – verifiable funds raised, communications and/or management projects completed with outcomes that had a measurable impact on the success of fundraising for the organisation
  • Service – formal, structured volunteer service for specific organisations in which the candidate provides a direct service or acts in a leadership/governance role.

Once the required number of points have been documented in each section of the application, the candidate may select their exam testing window and submit their application for review and approval prior to being authorized to write the CFRE examination. No one may sit for the CFRE exam without having completed and submitted their initial application for CFRE certification and received approval to test.

The CFRE Examination

CFRE examination assesses mastery of the body of knowledge required to perform the breadth professional fundraising responsibilities. The 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 body of knowledge is collected by a professional testing agency using a detailed survey called a Job Analysis. The Job Analysis is updated every five years to assure the CFRE exam and the eligibility requirements reflect current fundraising practice.

The CFRE examination is designed as a practice-based exam that assesses candidate mastery of the six core knowledge areas of fundraising that would be considered requisite for individuals with at least five years of professional fundraising experience. These knowledge areas and their proportionate weight in the current version of the CFRE exam are as follows:

  • Current and Prospective Donor Research (16% of total scored items)
  • Securing the Gift (19% of total scored items)
  • Relationship Building (27% of total scored items)
  • Volunteer Involvement (8% of total scored items)
  • Leadership and Management (18% of total scored items)
  • Ethics and Accountability (11% of total scored items)

The CFRE examination consists of 200 multiple choice questions.  Of these, 175 questions count toward the candidate’s score.  The other 25 questions are being tested to make sure they are psychometrically sound; these 25 questions do not count toward the score.

A Durable Credential – the 3 year recertification cycle

Once initial certification has been awarded, a CFRE must recertify every three years in order to maintain the CFRE credential.

The recertification application requires the CFRE to document information in the same four categories as the initial application:  Education, Professional Practice, Professional Performance, and Service. Again the application works on a point system but because of the shorter 3 year time frame for recertification, candidates document a somewhat lower minimum number of points in each of the four categories in order to be recertified.

The requirement for ongoing assessment in order to recertify and maintain the CFRE credential means employers, colleagues, and donors can remain confident that a fundraiser holding the CFRE credential has current, demonstrated mastery of best practices in ethical fundraising. They are current in fundraising practice and are professionals committed to life long learning and growth. A CFRE holds themselves to the highest standards for competence, credibility, and ethics in philanthropic fundraising.

Visit the CFRE Career Center to Recruit a CFRE for your fundraising team!