Here, Alexis Alm, who became a CFRE in 2008 and Chair of CFRE International in 2024, shares her thoughts on how the credential benefits fundraising executives, their employers, and the profession itself.
In 2023, you celebrated 15 years as a CFRE. Congratulations! How has holding the CFRE credential impacted your career? Tell us about the doors it opened.
It has benefitted my career in a variety of ways.
Upon earning the credential, it gave credence and weight to my strategies and plans. It showed my organization utilized best practices.
There are lots of great ideas and strategies in the fundraising field. There has never been a lack of creativity on how to raise money. The real hurdle is determining which approaches will be the most effective.
The CFRE credential helped me to separate and implement the most efficient and impactful approaches based on best practices. These are what I like to call “success practices.”
All nonprofits want the most optimal results while maximizing organizational resources. I found the CFRE credential gave major gift and planned giving donors more confidence in my knowledge and advice.
One donor said he was impressed by all the letters after my name. I asked him if he knew what “CFRE” stood for. He said, “No, but I know that it means you know what you are talking about!”
Also, I found that as I worked with my donors’ financial advisors, CPAs, and attorneys, these professionals had a higher level of respect for me and knew I had “earned my seat at the table.”
You have held roles, including your most recent one, in several organizations where you had direct interaction with the board. How has being a CFRE supported you in developing trust and solid relationships with board members?
Most board members are not working in the nonprofit field. They are aware of professional designations in finance, accounting, project management, investments, etc.
Once I explained the CFRE credential to them, “it just clicked” and made all the sense in the world that it is a designation signaling professionalism as well as my commitment to excellence and knowledge. Credentials and commitment to excellence are what good board members, and CEOs, want to see in every aspect of their organizations.
For anyone considering asking their employer to support their application fee, what are points to highlight regarding the enhanced value a CFRE brings to their workplace and team?
- The certification’s cost is an investment in your fundraising program. It will pay off many times over.
- The knowledge gained through the preparation process and required ongoing education ensures the development professional is using the most up-to-date practices and techniques currently achieving success for organizations around the world.
- The CFRE credential builds confidence and mutual respect across organizational disciplines.
- Foundations and funders like to see that staff are CFREs, especially when it comes to achieving six- and seven-figure match gifts for capital campaigns.
- High net-worth individuals and their financial advisors want assurance they are working with knowledgeable, competent professionals.
- The training and emphasis on ethics is valuable to the overall success of an organization.
When a fundraising professional is a CFRE, how does that elevate the fundraising profession as a whole?
CFRE International has established a baseline of competency and best practices in our industry. Often, board members and CEOs misunderstand our roles and the level of expertise required to be successful.
The credential also helps boards to have more realistic expectations on what it takes to have meaningful impact on the missions we represent for our organizations.
You became a CFRE while working full time and raising five children. Frequently, candidates feel a sense of trepidation they might not have enough time to meet the Education requirements and study for the CFRE Exam. Which words of wisdom would you give to someone in this situation?
I wove CFRE prep into every aspect of my life. I always kept flashcards with me. They were handmade 3 x 5 cards, as the official CFRE flashcards, that are now available as a package with the CFRE Practice Exam, were not available back in 2008.
I reviewed them every time I had 15 minutes—whether at my kids’ soccer practice, during my lunch break at work, and even the doctor’s office waiting room.
We made it a game with my kids. They loved quizzing me in the car. We also did our “homework” together. They liked reminding me of the rules like, “No TV until homework is finished.” That included my CFRE study schedule.
What advice would you give to a candidate feeling anxious about the CFRE Exam?
I would say get started. That is the most important step. Find out what you know (and what you don’t know) with the CFRE Practice Exam.
Set a six-, eight-, or 12-week study schedule. Stick to it. Be confident in yourself. Join the CFRE online community to share your questions, concerns, and fears. Tap into current CFREs for their study advice.
Everyone is different. You will find someone that has an approach that resonates with you. Also, you will discover that the CFRE community is supportive, encouraging, and helpful.
You became Chair of CFRE International on January 1, 2024. Welcome! What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I am so excited to serve as the Chair of CFRE International! I can hardly believe that I am in the top role for this organization that I admire so much and that I credit for my career and professional success.
I look forward to meeting and getting to know prospective and current CFREs from around the world. I want to get a better understanding of how we can better serve and support their career goals and the impact they strive to have on the world.
Thank you for being a CFRE and taking the time to share your thoughts and advice!