Daniel H. Lanteigne, CFRE, CHRP, shares how he approached becoming a CFRE.
When did you become a fundraising professional and what do you enjoy most about your job?
A few years ago, when I was in the corporate sector for a large Canadian bank, I was approached to join a philanthropic development team in a non-profit. It is clearly this seed, planted without knowing it, that led me to the philanthropic sector.
Soon after, I joined an organization I had known since my childhood. It was sort of my bungee cord to leave an environment as comfortable and as stable in which I had been working for several years. This is where it all started. I quickly realized that I was “on my X” in fundraising.
Today, more than ever, meetings with donors who contribute to small- or large-scale changes are the moments that are most precious to me. Each encounter is unique and allows you to build something true, lasting, and extremely rewarding.
My privileged job as a “transmission belt” between resources and needs is one of the most beautiful things one can achieve.
You’re based in Montréal, Canada. What do you think is unique about the fundraising sector in Québec?
Long accused of lagging behind the rest of Canada, Québec’s philanthropic culture has been built and redefined since the Quiet Revolution (1960s). The data shows us that a catch-up has finally taken place recently and we can certainly thank the professionalization of the sector for these gains.
We have always been able to count on an immense force of solidarity and kindness, two elements fundamentally inscribed in the DNA of Québecers.
Donors are now more curious and informed, and fundraisers are also more trained than before. The creation of a certificate in philanthropy management at the University of Montréal and the numerous conferences and educational opportunities of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) have certainly helped to accelerate our culture.
In addition, Québec now has more than 40 CFREs which, by their title, strengthen the capacity, legitimacy and recognition of the fundraising profession as first-rate ambassadors. In the absence of a professional order or any other regulatory framework, both for the protection of donors and for the reputation of organizations, the four letters “CFRE” contribute enormously to reputation and a tangible positive for philanthropy in Québec.
How did you first hear about the CFRE and what made you decide to pursue it?
When I started fundraising, I quickly joined the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and this is were I saw these four letters for the first time: CFRE. Talking with fundraising professionals, holders of the CFRE credential, I saw immense pride in how they talked about it and I realized they were recognized and respected experts in their field. It became a personal and professional target that I wanted to reach.
For me, becoming a CFRE is allowing communities, organizations, and donors to have access to best practices in fundraising, but it is also allowing us to have a stronger voice in philanthropy.
When did you start your application and how long did it take you to complete it?
I started my initial application several months before selecting an exam date. This is an important step and requires good preparation. In particular, in order to get the whole picture of your monies raised in recent years, but also to register all the achievements and training that we have participated in.
Once I assembled that information, I entered my information, bit by bit, for about a month. This step therefore not only validates our eligibility, but allows us to have a 360-degree view and take a step back from our philanthropic career and see where our strengths and weaknesses are.
What advice do you have for others about completing the application?
Start early and keep track of the education you’ve done (trainer, organizer, duration, etc.) to make inputting your information easier. These elements are essential and can be very time consuming, especially for people who, like me, do not necessarily keep the training programs.
Can you tell us how you approached studying for the exam? How long did you study for? Which book(s) did you use? What did you do to stay positive?
I studied alone and I think it’s essential to find what works best with your skills. I quickly bought several reference books that I still use today and that are well suited to philanthropy in Canada, such as “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising” and “Excellence in Fundraising in Canada.”
Beyond the books, the resources on the CFRE.org site were frankly very useful, in particular the Test Content Outline. The CFREs I know have been very encouraging and I took a refresher course that was very useful, just a few days before my exam.
My journey has been over a few months, because it is not only revision, it is also learning and an opportunity to return to best practices that we sometimes tend to put aside in real life.
Did you receive advice from other CFREs before you wrote the exam? If so, what advice did they give you?
The best advice I received from a fellow CFRE was: the exam doesn’t try to trap you. It uses best practices. You just have to think that the organization benefits from all the winning conditions and is aligned with best fundraising practices.
This advice allowed me to be in an optimal mindset for the exam and not to overthink the questions and the statements. This is clearly the best advice I received!
What was going through your mind when you arrived at the test center?
I was so nervous. At the testing center, the security was high. They digitally took my fingerprints plus looked for anything under my shoes, my sleeves and my pockets. The almost sterile environment made me so nervous. I never had to pass an exam under such conditions, neither at the university nor elsewhere.
I really needed to take a moment to calm down, condition myself, and tell myself that everything would be fine. After all, I knew my profession!
How did you feel when you passed the exam?
The moment when the sheet with my score came out of the printer from the test center was endless. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. But when I saw that I had passed the exam, I was not only very happy, but above all so proud.
This was an important step to confirm that I was not only belonging to the industry, but that I was fundamentally committed not only to the organizations in which I would work, but also to the advancement of the profession.
Since becoming a CFRE, what benefits have you experienced?
It certainly changed the way I approach fundraising. I remember gaining confidence in my skills and being more solid when it came time to talk about philanthropic discussions.
My designation also allowed me to be more confident not only with donors, but also with my fundraising colleagues. It was like I had some form of initiation and I was part of the team now.
What advice do you have for others who are considering the CFRE but aren’t sure if they should get started?
The path to obtaining the CFRE designation goes beyond the test. It’s often a very personal process to prove yourself and to reach a certain milestone in your career.
You have to be prepared to invest time in its preparation, to be authentic in the areas where we excel less and to come back to the very essence of our work and best practices for doing it.
Obtaining the CFRE certification is not just adding four letters after your name. It means assuming our expertise, our ethics, and our thirst to remain on the lookout and even at the forefront of best practices in fundraising for the well-being of all communities.
So, with every email, letter, and public connection I make, there are always those letters that send an extremely strong and positive message for the philanthropy of today and tomorrow.