How did you enter the fundraising profession and for how long have you been a fundraising professional?
I fell into the profession completely by accident. I met a woman who was an Executive Director of a small nonprofit. She was hiring a Development Manager and just had a “hunch” I would be great at fundraising. She hired me and invested in giving me an “on-the-job” education in everything from grant writing to major gifts.
I had to hit the ground running, but I never looked back! I have now been in the fundraising/development sector for the last 15 years.
What do you think is the best thing about working in the nonprofit sector?
I love making meaningful connections with people. I have always been values driven, and a true idealist at heart. Nonprofits are the place where we can truly connect with one another in our humanity and find common ground in our connection to one another.
How did you first hear about the CFRE?
I have known about it for several years through being a member of my local AFP chapter. Fundraising is really an emerging profession, and I loved the idea of formalizing the knowledge I had gained over the years to validate my professional practice.
When was the moment you decided you would pursue your CFRE?
I had mulled it over and had my application open for at least two years. After working in a challenging environment and taking a couple of months off, I decided the time was right.
Then, the pandemic hit! I postponed another year while working in my new position and being at home with three school-aged children. Finally, in January of 2021, after a year in my new position, I thought the time felt right. I officially sent in my updated application in January and took the test in mid-April.
About how long did it take you to fill out the application?
A long time! I was really waiting until I knew I was ready to commit to studying.
Did you receive advice from any CFREs during your CFRE journey? If so, what advice did they provide?
Yes, they all said the test was harder than they expected! Also, everyone said to find a study buddy or group.
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 mostly decided to take the test independently. Although they were very excited when they heard that I had passed the test.
You recently became a CFRE. Are there any benefits you’ve experienced as a result of being a CFRE so far?
Even after 15 years in the field, the certification process deepened my professional knowledge and skills and has reaffirmed my love of fundraising.
When preparing for the CFRE exam, did you study alone, with a study buddy, or study group?
I had a small study group with five other CFRE candidates. We are spread out all over the world, and somehow we managed to squeeze in one hour a week during lunch to connect virtually. It was the single most important study method for me.
What do you think were the benefits of your study approach?
I am a people person and need accountability. Having others to discuss and share knowledge with was so helpful. And it helped me to progress in my study timeline more methodically.
For about how many hours did you study and which book(s) did you select?
I studied for about three to four hours per week for the last 10 weeks or so. I used the “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising Vol. 4,” CFRE Practice Exam, and CFRE online resources.
There is something deeply fulfilling about obtaining a CFRE credential. Because it is voluntary, it requires a level of commitment and professionalism that goes above and beyond typical job requirements.
It deepened my knowledge and understanding while connecting me with other professionals that have the same commitment to excellence. After 15 years, it really did reaffirm to me that I am in the right profession and there is so much more rewarding work ahead.