Heiko Plange-Korndoerfer, CFRE, FFIA, FAIM, is the Director of Fundraising and Commercial Development at Perth Zoo in Western Australia. Here he shares why he feels fundraisers should stop saying they fell into the profession and the pride that comes with being a CFRE.
How did you first hear about the CFRE and what was the moment when you decided you wanted to get certified?
My first boss was a CFRE and instilled in me the importance of lifelong learning. In fact, it is the very thing that I love most about being a professional fundraiser. Being a CFRE is not about knowledge. It is about applying knowledge.
For fundraising professionals in Australia, what are the benefits of being a CFRE?
Fundraising in Australia is increasingly being recognized as a profession.
Honing your craft is a hallmark of any profession. Sophisticated philanthropists require fundraisers to be trusted advisors. CFRE is a recognized platform on which to build authentic relationships with our donors.
How long had you been professionally fundraising when you started your CFRE application?
I first enrolled into CFRE after five years in the profession. While this is fine, I recommend that people commence their application in years two to three. It focuses you to commit to the goal and shapes your career.
Did you let your employer know you were pursuing the CFRE? If so, were they supportive?
Yes and absolutely. I offered to pay for it on my own and was pleasantly surprised when they sponsored half of my fee.
What impact has being a CFRE had on your career?
I am proud to display my CFRE credential and actively talk about this when I meet with prospective donors. I used to say that I ended up in fundraising by chance—this is non-congruent to being a professional.
I now say I worked hard to achieve professional excellence to benefit the donors I serve. This has made a profound change to the engagement with donors on behalf of the causes I work for.
You’ve been a CFRE Ambassador for several years now. Why do you think it is important for fundraising professionals in Australia to earn a globally-recognized certification?
Again, all too often you hear fundraisers say they fell into fundraising serendipitously. That does not earn you any respect or make you a professional. Most people who become medical professionals know of their passion when they are going through school.
I suspect most fundraisers know of their passion too, however, do not define it early in life. CFRE gives you that opportunity.
You’ve been in the fundraising profession for over 20 years. What brings you the most job satisfaction?
Fundraising is like strategy—you know where you want to go. You just don’t know how to get there. I love the “figuring it out” which gives you an opportunity to be a lifelong learner. Curiosity is the greatest gift to mankind and it is privilege to practice this skill each day as a fundraiser.
The best piece of advice I have ever received as a fundraiser is that it is not about you! Now go and figure it out.