Jae Rivera, CFRE, shares her advice to making time to work on the CFRE application and study, keeping on track, and celebrating your CFRE achievement.

What kinds of personal and professional events were going on in your life at the time you decided to pursue your CFRE?
My journey and my story are fairly unique being that I decided to obtain my CFRE while supporting a high school senior preparing for college, working full-time as a VP at The APEX Museum, supporting my husband to make his promotion to a VP, starting a nonprofit of my own, and writing a five-week accelerated curriculum called “Lupus Take 5.”

What advice do you have for other busy fundraising professionals on how to make the time to complete their application and study?
Once you decide you are going to apply for the CFRE, set a goal for your application deadline. Take a look at your full year calendar and begin to plot out where you can take classes and complete projects. Every Lyft/Uber ride, appointment delay, or place where I would be sitting for a long time was a chance for me to study or complete my application.

Enjoy the journey of education and networking while you are completing your application. If you are visual about your goals, it will bother you to have an incomplete application. Remember that every entry causes that number to rise in a positive direction. Every completion gets you closer to your goal.

This application is your first test in showing you are savvy about your time management and goal success. Lastly, the application process and test study are only an example of the type of work you have ahead of you in the fundraising fields.

The ability to be able to tell your story of how you completed such a sizable project is rewarding in itself. It is demonstrative proof you have the competency and tenacity to make things happen.

Once you view it this way, there is nothing that can stop you.

As you studied, did what you learn impact your day-to-day fundraising work?
I used the CFRE Test Content Outline as a checklist for my organization, going over each task to make sure it was a part of the organization’s standard operating procedures. If there were adjustments to be made, it was an easy way for me to show initiative.

I realized very quickly that this roadmap had multi-layered benefits.

What studying resources did you find to be most valuable?
I used the Achieving Excellence in Fundraising book, the CFRE Practice Exam and the flashcards that come with it, Philanthrolab blog, the Nonprofit Impact Strategy Course by Drew Reynolds, Participation is Leadership Circle for Emerging Development Professionals, and several resources from AFP.

What test-taking advice do you have for future CFREs?
A single word within the question can change the question’s meaning. Understand how to identify words within phrases like: What is the FIRST thing you would do when starting planned giving?

You will often hear people say, the answers can all be correct, but that’s not true as only one of those answers is the very FIRST thing you would do.

This is where you gain your confidence in really knowing and understanding the process and steps you would take and their order, rather than depending on rote memorization.

Are there any other words of wisdom you’d like to share for others working towards initial certification?
I was happy a member of the Certification Team gave me the advice to fill in education as we go. The application itself can look a bit daunting at first glance.

If you are busy trying to pull emails and recall what classes you took, you may become less motivated. It’s best to enter educational events into your application as soon as you attend them.

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