It was also the year Bev Neisler, a fundraising professional in Illinois, USA, became a CFRE. We talked to Bev about her 25 years as a CFRE and how the certification has influenced her career.
You became a CFRE in 1996. Where were you working at the time and what was the “Aha moment” when you decided you would pursue certification?
I was working at our local community college as the executive director of the foundation.
My “aha moment” was when I decided that if I was going to commit to this wonderful profession and make this my life’s work, I should take my qualifications and credentials to the next level and become certified. It was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made.
Can you describe a time when having your CFRE led to a career opportunity?
In my 25 years as a CFRE, each door opened wider because of my certification.
I have been fortunate to have been recruited for almost every position I have had and my CFRE designation gave me an edge on other candidates in the pool.
When interviewing for jobs in the past, have interviewers noticed that you’re a CFRE? If so, what have they said?
Yes. Today having your CFRE designation is more of a standard requirement than it was 25 years ago. I remember explaining the significance of the CFRE to several hiring managers who were always impressed once they understood its importance.
The CFRE exam covers a broad swath of fundraising knowledge. Some fundraising professionals feel that because it tests areas they don’t work in directly, the exam is not relevant to their work. What is your advice to fundraising professionals who feel this way?
Certain areas of the test may not apply to your current role, today; however, you may discover that you need a higher level of expertise if you move on to another organization. Since moving to a larger health care organization, there is an expectation that I know a variety of topics that comprise the fundraising landscape.
It would be difficult for me to claim to be the chief development officer without possessing the broad body of knowledge needed to successfully lead the charge.
CFREs recertify every three years. What tips do you have for keeping your recertification on-track and organized?
This is a great question! I have gotten better about saving information to an electronic file. When I participate in a seminar or conference, I scan the materials and place them in the file for future reference.
The time to recertify comes around very quickly and I would never be able to remember all of the ways I have contributed to my certification if I didn’t have my file.
Have you ever worked for an employer that covered the cost of your recertification? If so, how did you approach the conversation?
I paid for my initial certification and all recertifications. I did approach my employer at the community college about covering the cost; but since the certification was something that I would carry throughout my career, I was informed that I would have to cover the cost.
Reflecting back that decision makes sense to me. I see becoming a CFRE as a commitment I made to myself and to the profession, and indeed, my certification has been part of my credentials long after I left my role at the community college.
Why do you feel certification is important in the fundraising profession?
Certification is important for several reasons. Firstly, it raises our credibility to recruiters, hiring managers, CEOs, and sets us apart from other candidates who may be interviewing for the same position.
Additionally, a CFRE designation gives us credibility within our own organization because we have worked hard to earn this designation; we are practitioners. We are the people who demonstrate that we are CFRE-worthy by rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.
It is my experience that it gives our CEOs, colleagues, board members, and other volunteers the peace of mind to know that as a CFRE, I will lead in areas where best practices will be examined and implemented. A CFRE designation “professionalizes” our profession.
As you’ve held the CFRE for 25 years, what has been the most pronounced benefit you’ve experienced as a certificant?
I believe the CFRE gave me more confidence in my abilities, particularly when I was younger. At that time, our board members and volunteers were much older than me. I would think to myself, why should they listen to me? They have children older than me!
The designation raises my credibility among our board members, CEOs, peers, and co-workers. I want them to have a sense of confidence in knowing that the guidance I am offering is based on fundraising best practices and not on a hunch that seems like a good idea.
Additionally, I am always excited to cheer on members of my teams who have become certified; many times, at my encouragement. I believe being the leader with a CFRE designation gives me the responsibility to promote this among my team.
Strong fundraising teams are developed when everyone understands the point at which sound decisions are made, rooted in solid fundraising principles.
After all, I am here to support the mission of my organization and to honor the generosity of our donors in the best ways possible.