Announcing updates to the CFRE certification programme in 2016

Alexandria, VA – 14 October 2015 – CFRE International is pleased to announce exciting updates coming to the CFRE® certification programme, effective January 2016. The updates outlined below are evolutionary rather than revolutionary and reflect CFRE International’s commitment to ensuring that CFRE certification reflects both current best practices in ethical fundraising and our maturing global profession. All fundraising professionals currently eligible for CFRE certification will remain eligible and no new requirements for recertification as a CFRE have been added.

Updates to the CFRE Test Content Outline incorporate insights from CFRE International’s most recent International Job Analysis research on philanthropic fundraising practice. Updates to application requirements for initial certification and recertification reflect the maturation of fundraising as a global profession.

Test Content Outline

The CFRE exam Test Content Outline will be updated to reflect the International Job Analysis research findings, finalized in 2015. The Job Analysis did not find any major shifts in the field of fundraising. However, the percentage of exam questions per domain will shift slightly to reflect Job Analysis results. The fundraising knowledge domain with the largest percentage shift was Securing the Gift (formerly 19% of exam questions; now 23%). The domain with the smallest percentage shift was Volunteer Involvement (formerly 8% of exam questions; remains at 8%). See below for a complete list of the CFRE knowledge domains and the percentage of exam questions that will be dedicated to each domain effective January 2016.

Domain 1: Current and Prospective Donor Research 14%
Domain 2: Securing the Gift 23%
Domain 3: Relationship Building 26%
Domain 4: Volunteer Involvement 8%
Domain 5: Leadership and Management 19%
Domain 6: Ethics, Accountability and Professionalism 10%

Marnie Hill, CFRE, Vice Chair of CFRE International and Chair of the Job Analysis Taskforce shares that “while our Job Analysis research did not find major shifts in the field of fundraising, the percentage of exam questions making up the six fundraising knowledge domains covered on the exam will shift slightly. Given these minor adjustments, candidates for the CFRE who have been using the prior Test Content Outline to prepare should have no added difficulty with the exam following the revised Test Content Outline”.

Resource Reading List

In order to keep resources up to date, all resources published prior to 2005 will be removed from the Resource Reading List.

Application Requirements for CFRE® Certification

The CFRE exam tests the baseline knowledge of best practices in ethical fundraising that candidates should have mastered by the time they have achieved 5 years of employment as a fundraising professional. The exam will continue to test knowledge at the 5-year level of professional experience.

Changes to CFRE application requirements reflect the maturing of the profession and the profession’s global nature. Updates to the application requirements also acknowledge the wide availability of educational options (such as undergraduate and graduate degrees in fundraising and nonprofit management, graduate level continuing education certificate programs, etc.) that accelerate an individual’s knowledge of best practices in ethical fundraising. Most of these educational options did not exist in 1981 when the CFRE credential was founded. Application requirements for the CFRE credential will change as follows:

Professional Practice:

A minimum of 36 points (the equivalent of 3 years of employment) within the last 5 years will be required for initial certification. (The former requirement was a minimum 60 points, which is the equivalent of 5 years of employment within the last 8 years.)

“Young professionals coming into the sector today often have a formal education in development and nonprofit management that was simply not available when the credential was first established in 1981,” explains Phil Schumacher CFRE ACFRE, Chair of CFRE International. Schumacher continues “we are also seeing an increasing number of established professionals transitioning to fundraising later in their careers, bringing with them years of transferable experience as well as education from workshops, conferences, and symposia in fundraising. Providing an accelerated track to the CFRE credential affords these professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of ethical fundraising best practice within a timeframe that is impactful for their fundraising career.”

Applicants will be advised that application after the minimum 3 years of employment as a fundraising professional represents an accelerated pathway to the CFRE credential. Such applicants should have a record of significant study in fundraising (as indicated by an academic degree in the field or intensive certificate program) and/or significant transferrable experience should they choose to apply after the minimum 3 years of employment. Recertification requirements in this category do not change.

Schumacher stresses that “the accelerated track in no way diminishes the credential. The CFRE exam will still test knowledge of best practices in ethical fundraising at the five-year level, and the education and performance requirements of the application remain the same”.

Professional Performance:

To acknowledge the disparity in value among worldwide currencies and the challenge of raising funds in developing economies, two changes will be made to the “Actual Funds Raised” component.

  • 1 point will equal the equivalent of USD 25,000 raised. (Currently, 1 point equals 25,000 raised in the applicant’s own currency.)
  • Applicants working in non-members countries of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) may request an economic equivalency adjustment of an additional 1 point per the equivalent of USD 25,000 raised.

The above updates apply to both initial certification and recertification requirements.


To elevate recognition of the educational value of volunteer service, up to 10 points of service learning through volunteer experiences may be counted under Education. This update applies to both initial certification and recertification requirements.

Volunteer Service:

With the inclusion of service learning in the Education category as noted above, Volunteer Service will cease to be listed as a separate application requirement.

“As a global credential, CFRE International strives to ensure that the pathway to CFRE certification is equitable for all fundraisers, no matter where they practice in the world. Fundraising professionals do not have access to equally extensive networks for volunteer service worldwide. By recognizing the educational value of volunteer service through the award of points in the Education section of the application, rather than in a separate Volunteer Services section, CFRE International affirms our commitment to the value of volunteer service by fundraising professionals while at the same time correcting a significant regional bias within the CFRE application requirements” said Leo Orland, FFIA, CFRE, Chair of the CFRE International Exam Committee.

What This Means for You

CFRE International has added new resources to our website to assist CFRE certificants and applicants in understanding the updates and what they will mean for them. If you are a fundraiser with an application in-process for initial certification or a CFRE due for recertification soon, you will receive an e-mail from the CFRE International certification team that outlines the 1 January transition process for open applications for initial certification or recertification. If you submit your application on or before 31 December 2015, this year’s application requirements will still apply. If you submit your application on or after 1 January 2016, the 2016 updates outlined above will apply. A 2016 CFRE Updates FAQ has been added to the Resources section of the CFRE International website to help answer any questions you may have.

CFRE International President & CEO Eva E. Aldrich, M.A., CFRE describes the updates as a further step forward in achieving CFRE International’s mission and vision. “Every year, I have the incredible privilege of attending fundraising conferences around the world. And wherever I go, fundraisers are talking about the same things and working on the same issues. Ultimately, this is really about better supporting and growing civil society through a CFRE credential that reflects our maturing fundraising profession and contemporary best practices in ethical fundraising.”