How did you enter the fundraising profession and what do you enjoy most about being a fundraising professional?
I first encountered the fundraising field on the opposite side of the table as a team member at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
The opportunity afforded me the experience of exposure to local nonprofits and community leaders who were making a difference. As a fundraiser, I have the privilege of raising hope in many facets.
Whether through engaging with donors, researchers, or community and business leaders, I can nurture meaningful relationships that will heal the world.
How did you first hear about the CFRE? What made you decide to pursue it?
I became aware of the CFRE through my local AFP Chapter. The CFRE is advertised in our monthly chapter meetings and several fundraisers I admired had achieved the designation.
The pandemic served as a driving force in that my working-from-home arrangement saved two hours of commute time. I transitioned those hours into focused study time.
You’re currently fundraising on behalf of a university. Why do you think it is important for higher ed fundraising professionals to hold a certification?
The CFRE is important in the higher education sector because it signifies a certain level of competency. The university setting exemplifies the highest level of scholarship at every level, so as a fundraising professional the CFRE reflects another level of distinction in the profession.
Can you share a bit about how you approached the application and meeting the education points requirements?
As there is an 80-credit education requirement, record-keeping was an important discipline.
My process was made a bit easier as AFP is enrolled as a Continuing Education Approved Provider, which meant that I could gain credit for attending monthly meetings that contained educational offerings as well as extra credits from the annual national conferences.
Additionally, my degrees also provided points as well as service learning through my volunteering with local nonprofits either through a general volunteer or leadership role.
Did your employer support your CFRE journey in any way? If so, how?
My employer allowed for some flexibility in my schedule to attend monthly AFP meetings and CFRE preparation sessions.
How did you determine what you needed to study? What book(s) or other material(s) did you use to prepare? Did you study on your own or with anyone?
Initially, I reviewed the Test Content Outline available through the CFRE site as well as the CFRE YouTube channel.
This information assisted me in identifying my areas of strength, so I had some sense of where I needed to focus my efforts. My fundraising peers were also helpful in providing study tips that worked best for them.
In realizing my learning styles, visual and kinesthetic, I prepared by reviewing and manually highlighting information in my study guide, writing down words and concepts that did not readily come to mind, and taking a practice exam.
I found the book “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising” by Eugene Tempel, Timothy Seiler, and Eva Aldrich to be useful. I set aside 30 minutes weekly to briefly review concepts/questions with a study partner. We mutually held each other accountable and served as a source of encouragement.
All together, how long did you study for the exam?
I studied approximately 100 hours over three months.
What study advice do you have for others who might feel nervous about taking an exam?
Find a consistent time to study, breathe, and embrace your knowledge. If you were able to complete the application process, you have it within you to pass the exam.
Can you describe how you felt when you entered the testing center versus how you felt when you saw you had passed?
I took the test during the pandemic. With mask in-hand, I completed a deep-breathing and affirmation exercise before walking into the facility.
The cleanliness of the facility and clear instructions helped me to settle me down. After finishing the test, the administrator congratulated me on my passing score. I thanked him and walked to my car.
I called my hubby and cried because the hard work and extra study effort had paid off.
What would be your advice to other fundraising professionals in higher ed contemplating whether or not to pursue their CFRE?
Consider your long-term goals and how the CFRE could serve as a catalyst in your next steps. I believe my preparation for the CFRE has made me a better fundraiser. I look forward to scheduling a review annually.