Frequently Asked Questions

About the Test Content Outline

How is the Test Content Outline for the CFRE exam developed?

As a practice-based certification, the Test Content Outline is determined based on the skills and knowledge that fundraisers employ everyday on the job. CFRE International collects this body of knowledge through a confidential survey conducted every five (5) years in partnership with our professional testing agency. This survey is called the Job Analysis survey. The Job Analysis survey is sent to both professionals holding the CFRE certification around the world and those who are not currently certified.

What is the purpose of the Test Content Outline?

Using the results of the Job Analysis research, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) examination is designed as a practice-based exam that assesses candidate mastery of the six core knowledge domains of fundraising that are required for individuals at the five year level of professional fundraising experience. The Test Content Outline defines those knowledge domains, the percentage of the total exam questions dedicated to each domain, and a breakdown of the tasks and key knowledge areas covered within the domain as a reference for candidates preparing to write the CFRE examination.

When was the last time the Test Content Outline was revised?

Prior to this latest revision, the last Test Content Outline revision was based on the Job Analysis survey conducted in 2009.

When will the CFRE exam begin to reflect the updated Test Content Outline?

The CFRE exam will reflect the updated Test Content Outline effective testing window 2016-#1 (testing dates 1 February – 31 march 2016).

What has changed in the Test Content Outline?

The Job Analysis did not find major shifts in the field of fundraising.  However, the percentage of questions per domain will shift slightly to reflect Job Analysis results.  The domain with the largest percentage shift was Securing the Gift (formerly 19% of exam questions; now 23%).  The domain with the smallest percentage shift was Volunteer Involvement (formerly 8% of exam questions; remains at 8%). The chart below shows the complete breakdown of the fundraising knowledge domains and the percentage of exam questions dedicated to each domain within the CFRE examination effective testing window 2016-#1.

Domain 1: Current and Prospective Donor Research 14%
Domain 2: Securing the Gift 23%
Domain 3: Relationship Building 26%
Domain 4: Volunteer Involvement 8%
Domain 5: Leadership and Management 19%
Domain 6: Ethics, Accountability and Professionalism 10%

I have been preparing for the CFRE exam using the current Test Content Outline, but I won’t sit for the exam until 2016. Will I be prepared?

Given the minor adjustments to the Test Content Outline, candidates for the CFRE who used the prior Test Content Outline to prepare for the exam should have no difficulties with the exam form that follows the new Test Content Outline

How can I obtain the updated Test Content Outline?

The Test Content Outline effective 1 January 2016 is available on the CFRE International website in the Resources menu under 2016 CFRE Programme Update Resources

About the Application Requirements for CFRE Certification & Recertification

When will the updated CFRE application requirements for initial and re-certification take effect?

The updated application requirements will take effect for all applications submitted for review and approval after 30 December 2015. Applications for initial or re-certification submitted on or before 30 December will be evaluated against the existing application standards and requirements.

Why was the Professional Practice (experience) requirement for initial certification reduced from five years in the last eight to 3 years in the last five?

This update to the application requirements for initial certification acknowledges the maturation of our global profession and the now wide availability of educational options (such as undergraduate and graduate degrees in fundraising and nonprofit management, graduate level continuing education certificate programs, etc.) that accelerate an individual’s knowledge of best practices in ethical fundraising.  Most of these educational options did not exist in 1981 when the CFRE credential was founded. The change also allows individuals who have transitioned into fundraising from related fields to have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of best practices in ethical fundraising earlier in their careers.

The choice to apply after the minimum 3 years of employment as a fundraising professional represents an accelerated pathway to the CFRE credential. Applicants who do not have such a record as described above are advised to delay their application until they have achieved a minimum of 5 years of experience as a fundraising professional.

Does the reduction in required professional practice experience for initial certification diminish the knowledge and authority that the CFRE credential represents?

Not at all. The CFRE exam will continue to test knowledge of best practice in ethical fundraising at the 5-year level of professional experience. Additionally, the Education and Professional Performance requirements of the application also remain the same. This update simply reflects our profession’s maturation to where individuals are entering the profession with extensive undergraduate or graduate level educational preparation and/or have transitioned into fundraising from related fields with significant transferable experience. When coupled with professional fundraising practice, these experiences greatly accelerate an individual’s understanding of and commitment to best practices in ethical fundraising.

Why has the application requirement for Volunteer Service been removed from the application requirements for CFRE certification and recertification?

Fundraising professionals do not have access to equally extensive networks for volunteer service worldwide.  As a global credential, this change corrects significant regional bias within the CFRE application requirements. CFRE International values volunteer experience for fundraisers and will continue to encourage applicants to engage in volunteer service by recognizing the educational value of service learning through volunteer experience with up to 10 application points in the Education section of the application for initial or re-certification.

Regarding Open (in-process) CFRE Applications as of 1 January 2016

I have an open application for initial/re-certification that I will not be ready to submit prior to 30 December 2015. What will happen to it?

Your open, in-process application and most of your data will be retained and transitioned into our new online application system based on the updated application requirements. However, data regarding Volunteer Service experiences will not be retained during the transition, as there will no longer be a separate Volunteer Service requirement within the application.

Will Volunteer Service experiences I have already entered in my application be transferred for credit in the Education section as of 1 January 2016?

No. If you have an open application for CFRE initial certification or re-certification that will not be submitted on or before 30 December 2015, the credits you’ve entered for Volunteer Service will not automatically transition to credits within the Education section of the application.

You will need to login to your online application prior to 30 December to make note of the volunteer experiences you’ve entered. Once the updated application requirements go live in January 2016, you may log in and add those volunteer experiences back into the Education section of your application. All information previously entered under the Volunteer Service section of open applications will be not be retained during the transition to the updated application.

I have Funds Raised in a foreign currency entered in the Professional Performance section of my open application. How will the transition to the updated online application impact those funds raised which I’ve already entered?

The funds raised that you’ve already entered in your online application will be transitioned with your open application for initial or recertification. However, once the online application based on the updated application requirements is launched in January 2016, you will need to login to your application and convert your funds raised into their U.S. dollar equivalent. A link to a currency converter will be available within the online application for this purpose.

Am I permitted to submit my application for initial certification on or before 30 December 2015, even if I’m not yet ready to write the CFRE exam?

Yes, as long as your application is complete based on the current application requirements for initial certification, you may submit the application and select a CFRE exam testing window up to four testing windows in the future. For an application submitted in December 2015 that would include any exam testing window in 2016.

I’d like to submit my application for recertification early and avoid the application transition process. How far in advance am I able to submit my application for re-certification?

Because of the Professional Practice requirements within the application for recertification there is a limit to how far in advance a recertification application may be submitted. If your recertification is due as of 31 March 2016, or earlier, you may submit your application prior to 30 December 2015.