Mater Foundation’s Lesley Ray, CFRE, FFIA, talks about how her organization encourages fundraising staff to attain their Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential.

Mater Foundation’s fundraising program
I’ve been at Mater Foundation for 16 years. We are the fundraising and philanthropy arm of Mater Group throughout Queensland and we fund value-adding programs in healthcare, medical research and health education. We have around 40 frontline fundraisers that cover the entire range of fundraising activities.

To thrive, you must invest in your people
We are believers and supporters in providing professional development for all of our staff, and by that I mean all staff, not just those in fundraising.

We support people who either self-identify as wanting to do professional development in their area of specialty or we will identify people where we think a course would be good for them. It could be a Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) short course, a certificate course, etc. We support people to do their FIA diploma of fundraising and to attend monthly FIA meetings.

We ask that if you are in a fundraising role at Mater Foundation, you must be a member of your professional association, which in this case is FIA.

Each person pays their individual membership; however, we provide the funds and support for all the professional development the person is seeking or requires. We want our people to have some skin in the game, but we do as well, and we evidence that through the development of our people.

A lack of shared identity
Fundraisers continue to be challenged by a lack of shared identity. The CFRE credential offers a critical element in the framework of fundraising professional identity by offering the world’s only practice-based credential in fundraising.

As a practice credential, CFRE sits alongside qualifications, experience, continuing professional education, the body of knowledge and research and the individual’s commitment to ethical conduct.

CFRE is robust. It’s ISO accredited, which emphasizes the standards of the credential. We believe in the CFRE as the independent confirmation of our fundraising knowledge and practice.

Every staff member at Mater Foundation, not just fundraising staff, do the FIA Code course which is designed to provide members (and others) with a practical understanding of the Code and how to conduct fundraising in accordance with best practice.

The Code covers a range of areas relating to a fundraiser’s conduct towards donors and beneficiaries, including people in vulnerable circumstances and our engagement with suppliers. It really talks to our transparent and ethical behavior as fundraisers.

How we support staff on their CFRE journey
We support people through study sessions as they prepare for the CFRE exam. Because of my role as a Director of the CFRE Board I’m not able to participate in these sessions. However, our CEO Nigel Harris does and often has conversations with people about CFRE. Mater Foundation will pay for the CFRE practice exam as well as the initial certification fee. I have an extensive library, so people have access to my books as well for studying. We don’t pay the recertification fee though.

When new people join our team, we don’t set timelines for them to become a CFRE. It’s more of a conversation I have with individuals who are in the team.

I was in an interview recently with somebody and I spoke about the professional development we offer as an organization, and of course this included CFRE. We currently have four CFREs on our team and I expect that will increase by at least one within the next 6 – 12 months.

The CFRE promotes lifelong learning
I achieved my CFRE many years ago and as it’s a practice-based credential it means that to maintain it I need to have a commitment to professional development and practice. So being a CFRE also evidences a commitment to lifelong learning.

Our staff highly regard the professional development opportunities we give. They recognize we are generous and are all about being a professional fundraising outfit. They also know we consider the CFRE credential as the independent confirmation of a person’s fundraising knowledge and practice.

When people don’t wish to pursue their CFRE
My query is simple, “Help me to understand why.” If someone says to me, “But I have a degree in business. I have an arts degree. I have a degree in science.” I ask, “Well how does that actually fit with what we do on a day-to-day basis as a fundraiser?”

I have a master’s degree in philanthropy and nonprofit studies. It says I know a lot about what’s important to donors and what ticks the boxes of those people who come together through collective philanthropy.

It says I know how to do research, but it doesn’t actually say anything about what I know as a fundraising practitioner. As I said, my CFRE sits alongside my qualifications.

Starting a conversation about fundraising as a profession
I have “CFRE” on my signature block and when I have been asked about what it is, whether that’s by donors, hospital colleagues or friends, I’m typically met with, “Oh, there’s a credential for fundraising? Hadn’t realized that.”

It’s a great way to start a conversation about fundraising as a profession rather than fundraising as something that anybody can do.

Recently a team member earned her CFRE and she emailed me straightaway. I could tell how excited she was. She is highly qualified through academic qualifications. Fundraising is her chosen professional pathway, so she has pursued CFRE and she shared with me that she feels as though it rounds out her qualifications.

It comes back to CFRE sitting alongside qualifications and experience. It certainly doesn’t replace any of these other components, but it is a critical element in the framework of fundraising professional identity.