How did you enter the fundraising profession and for how long have you been a fundraising professional?
I entered fundraising by accident. I started a doctoral program in higher education and was granted a graduate assistantship position in the school’s development office, where I helped with donor stewardship and event planning.
At the time, my supervisor encouraged me to take an institutional advancement class as an elective. To my surprise, I loved learning about the goals, philosophies, and unique roles within institutional advancement.
I decided I wanted to continue making the case to support higher education.
How did you first hear about the CFRE?
I had seen the certification listed at the end of accomplished fundraisers’ names.
A mentor who knew I wanted to grow and excel in the field suggested I pursue it. She is a very successful fundraiser who also has her CFRE, so she introduced me to the idea and even helped me understand the different components of the application process.
When was the moment you decided you would pursue your CFRE?
I decided to pursue my CFRE after becoming successful with leadership annual giving solicitations and wanted to grow in other areas.
What were your top two reasons for earning your CFRE?
I wanted to become even more competent in the work I was already doing, and I wanted to get advanced learning in areas that might become opportunities for promotion.
I care about the resources we ask donors to invest in our organizations and want to be as prepared as I can to steward and manage our resources and offices well.
About how long did it take you to fill out the application?
Yikes. It took a couple of tries. I tried it alone for a couple days but realized I wasn’t entering the educational and service credits properly.
A few weeks later, I saw my mentor and told her my difficulty. She offered to walk me through the process. Once we got together, it only took an additional day.
How did you go about meeting the application’s education requirements?
Fortunately, I was already attending graduate school, which is another reason I decided to apply. I also attended professional development courses through CASE and other advancement resource organizations.
Did your workplace support you in earning your CFRE? If so, how did you approach the conversation and what kind of support did they offer?
I actually completed the program on my own. Not many people in my organization had the CFRE, so I never considered the organization might help me with it.
It would have been great to receive help, but since it was my own personal goal, I chose to invest in myself.
You’re an assistant director of development for a university. Why do you think it is important for fundraising leaders in an academic setting to have their CFRE?
We ask donors to make gifts of significant sizes to support our causes. I consider it my personal responsibility to donors and partners to be as learned as I can on how to advise and educate them on the many ways of giving, and equally as competent on how to manage and steward their resources to facilitate a long-term giving and rewarding relationship with our organization.
Additionally, I think faculty would probably esteem us with greater respect knowing we have similar credentials in our line of work that they are expected to have to teach at the university.
When preparing for the CFRE exam, did you study alone, with a study buddy, or study group?
I primarily studied alone, as I was fitting my studies in between my graduate schoolwork. I did join a Facebook study group and found the individuals there very motivating and encouraging.
Right before I took my exam, I called a woman who had just passed her exam who had offered to talk with anyone who had questions.
She was so gracious to let me pepper her with questions for about 30 minutes. It was a very helpful conversation, and I know her guidance helped me pass the exam.
I also used the online study guides and the online practice test. So even though I studied alone, I feel CFRE International provided many resources for us that equipped me to pass. With so many resources, I felt supported by CFRE International even though I physically studied alone.
What do you think were the benefits of your study approach?
I pretty much utilized every resource CFRE International listed on their website. I think it helped me approach the topics from various angles.
What is your advice for people who are considering the CFRE but aren’t quite sure if it’s right for them?
I learned about the many different areas of serving in philanthropy by studying for the CFRE exam.
If you’d like to advance your knowledge in the area in which you serve now and want to grow in new directions that your institution may need in the future, you should get your CFRE. Just having the letters behind my name provides me with a sense of accomplishment that I have achieved for the betterment of serving my donors, and I’m proud of that.
If I want them to make the gifts I ask of them, then I should be as prepared as I can be to handle and manage their gifts in the most educated way possible.