Frequently Asked Questions

About the CFRE credential

CFRE stands for Certified Fund Raising Executive.

The CFRE certification process consists of three parts: a written application, a written examination, and agreement to uphold a code of ethics and Accountability Standards. There is a requirement to recertify every three (3) years.

The CFRE certification process is independent of membership in any organization. You do not need to be a member of any organization to apply to the CFRE program. Also, achieving CFRE status does not ‘automatically’ make you a member of any organization. Individuals who hold current memberships in Participating Organizations receive a 20% discount. Individuals must indicate their membership in a Participating Organization when they apply to receive the discount.

About the CFRE application process and requirements

What is the application process?

Candidates must submit a completed application by the application deadline. Once submitted, applications will then be reviewed for eligibility. If there are any questions or concerns about your application, you will be contacted. If your application is approved, you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter so you can schedule your examination date and time.

What is required for the application?
The application works on a point system. You must reach a minimum number of points for each of three sections: education, professional practice and professional performance. Applications must report the minimum number of points in order to be considered.

What are the education requirements?
You will need to report conferences, workshops, seminars, and other types of training in which you have participated during the past 5 years. Examples include national, local, or regional conferences of professional associations (AHP, CASE, CRD, NCPG, AFP, ASAE, etc.); conferences conducted by your organization (Red Cross, YMCA, hospital/university systems); independent workshops or seminars; course offered through colleges or universities; technology training related to fundraising; etc. You earn one (1) point for each hour you attended these sessions. See our Continuing Education Credit Policy for more details.

What if I didn't keep track of courses I attended?
You can easily keep track of all your activities by creating a free account at My CFRE. You will need some basic information about educational programs you have attended. Suggestions for reconstructing your professional continuing education include reviewing your planners or appointment calendar and payment information. Check with the organization who hosted the activity to see if they maintain records. CFRE International does not maintain conference attendance records.

How do I document professional performance?
There are three ways to earn points in the professional performance category: Actual funds raised, communications activities which directly support fundraising, and management projects which directly support fundraising. Examples for submitting communications activities and management projects can be found here.

I am a consultant and I don't raise funds; my clients do. Can I still qualify?
Yes. Many consultants view themselves as ‘temporary’ or ‘on-loan’ staff for their clients and feel comfortable reporting funds raised. However, many others don’t. Those consultants primarily use management or communications activities to earn points. Board training, strategic planning, feasibility studies, and development of case statements are just as important to the work of a fundraising department as raising money.

I have been raising money as a volunteer for many more than the three years required by the CFRE application. Can I become a CFRE?
Currently, CFRE International requirements state that you must be a paid professional member of a fundraising staff or a paid consultant to not-for-profit organizations.

About the CFRE examination

What is the examination like?

The written exam consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The examination items test your knowledge in six areas: current and prospective donor research, securing the gift, relationship building, volunteer involvement, leadership and management, and ethics and accountability.

How do I study for the exam?
The CFRE exam is a generalist exam designed to test the knowledge and skills you use on the job on a daily basis. It is designed to test mastery of knowledge of best practices and how to apply them. It is not an ‘information recall’ test, which is the type of test we are used to from school. Because the exam is testing ‘practice,’ there is not a single study source.

The CFRE Test Content Outline and Resource Reading List are posted on our website. It is not expected that candidates read all the texts on the list, nor is it an exhaustive list.

My organization doesn't have a planned giving program. Can I still pass the examination?
The CFRE examination is designed to test the baseline fundamental knowledge a candidate would have after five years. The exam covers a broad range of topics and does not expect expertise in any specific area. As long as you have a good understanding of the basic principles of various types of fundraising, you will not be ‘penalized’ for not having a lot of experience with a particular type of campaign or development function.

I have seen CFRE preparation courses offered by various organizations. What role does CFRE International have in the development of these courses?
International standards for certification programs prohibit CFRE International from preparing candidates for the exam. As a result, CFRE International does not sponsor or endorse any educational programs designed to prepare candidates for the CFRE examination. CFRE International is not involved, in any way, in the development of any of these courses.

After the CFRE examination

What happens after I take the exam?

You will receive your score immediately upon completing the exam.

What is the pass rate for the exam?
The overall pass rate is approximately 70 – 80%.

Is my examination graded on a curve?
CFRE International works with its professional testing agency to set a passing score. This score remains the same regardless of how many people test, who those people are, or how well they do on the exam. The exam is not graded on a curve. There is not a predetermined number of people who can pass.

Can I see which questions I got wrong on the examination?
For security reasons, CFRE International does not permit access to or release answer sheets, test booklets, or previously ‘used’ exams.

What happens if I don't pass the exam?
Once your application is submitted, it is valid for a twelve-month period. Candidates who do not pass the exam are eligible for two (2) re-exam attempts per application. There is a fee to retake the exam, and you must wait thirty (30) days before taking the exam again. At the end of 12 months, you must submit a new application and pay the full application fee.

If I don't pass the exam, can I still be considered for the CFRE on the merits of my application?
No. All individuals awarded the CFRE must meet the qualifications set forth in the written application AND receive a passing score on the written examination.

Other questions