Eric Heininger, CFRE, shares why he felt earning his CFRE would assist him in achieving his professional development goals while reinforcing his expertise as a fundraising professional.
How did you first hear about becoming a CFRE?
After several years of working as a mid-level fundraising professional, a friend of mine who served as Director of Development at another social service agency asked if I had thought about the next steps in my career and told me how achieving my CFRE might help me meet my goals.
What made you decide to pursue your CFRE? How many years were you in the profession when you decided to go for it?
I was about seven years into my fundraising career when I decided to submit my application. At this stage in my career I was looking at next steps, but as with many development professionals we often do not have an academic degree in fundraising to set us apart. I had a degree and previous career in engineering. Every time someone would look at my resume, they would see that less-than-clear transition and question my abilities. Ever since having my credentials and those letters behind my name, that question has disappeared.
Did you speak with your boss about becoming a CFRE? If so, were they supportive? Did they offer to cover any/all of the initial certification fee?
When I first thought about completing my CFRE, I asked my boss at the time and they were not supportive. They believed experience alone should be the benchmark for expertise. I resigned not long after that and started my own consulting firm here in Des Moines, IA, USA. One of the very first things I did was finish my application and sit for the test. I covered the fees on my own.
How did you determine what you needed to study?
Over several years I systematically built up my skills and filled in holes in my expertise so I had a broad base of knowledge that serves me on a range of topics. My strongest expertise is in campaigns, grant writing, and governance. Topics that I had not practiced in a while were what I knew I needed to put a little more time into.
What study advice do you have for others?
We all have topics that we feel more comfortable about due to our daily responsibilities, but the advice I give to those people who will be sitting for the test soon is to review as much as you can on the topics you may have never practiced professionally. Another important topic that we sometimes overlook is ethics and operations. It’s easy to remember all the development plan segments and giving vehicles, but the fundamentals are still important.
For consultants, how do you think your clients benefit from you being a CFRE?
The most prominent ways my CFRE credential benefits my clients fits into two categories: Ensuring that I am up-to-date on the latest in research and professional development as well as giving board members and volunteers confidence in the guidance I am providing to the organization they trust dearly.
What professional benefits have you experienced from having your CFRE?
A small but meaningful piece of being a CFRE is that we are all recognized with an additional ribbon on our nametags at AFP lunches. It’s a quick way for those who are new to our chapter to know who could be a mentor or trusted colleague. Additionally, I greatly appreciate the CFRE Only online forum in CFRE Central that exists to share ideas and insights.
What advice do you have for any fundraising professionals on the fence about earning their CFRE?
My best advice is that earning your CFRE is an investment in yourself and your career. It reflects a strong body of work throughout your career and excellence among your peers. The process alone drives one to be a better fundraising professional and that is important to every organization we serve.