Randy Klassen is a fundraising consultant based in Saskatchewan, Canada, who has spent more than 30 years in the nonprofit space.
In 2020 he earned his CFRE. He shares his thoughts on the value of the CFRE for fundraising consultants, how he studied, and his advice for anyone debating if they should earn their CFRE.
When did you enter the fundraising profession and what is your favorite part about your current job?
Working for a nonprofit, I have always had a connection with fundraising. My first impression was not positive. I was uncomfortable asking for money.
When my perspective changed to developing relationships and talking about our case and what we were raising funds for, I started to enjoy the process. I looked forward to meetings, coffees, and lunches and having meaningful conversations about our community, how to support it, and how to build a stronger community.
How did you first learn about the CFRE and what was the moment you decided you would pursue earning it?
I learned about the CFRE certification through my connection with the YMCA.
I attended NAYDO conferences and I also volunteered as a NAYDO Council member. The conference educates YMCA staff and volunteers on philanthropy. One of the sessions I attended at NAYDO was on CFRE certification.
For fundraising consultants, what value do you believe the CFRE holds?
The CFRE certification is important for employers and the general community to have confidence with individuals who are raising funds for an organization.
It is important that the leadership of non-profits can trust that staff have the knowledge and ethics to represent an organization. Working in philanthropy without certification creates an additional challenge and potential barriers for donors.
While preparing for the exam, what did you find to be the most valuable preparation resource?
Working with another person that was also studying for the CFRE was very valuable. It made the process more enjoyable and a better learning environment.
We started with the practice questions, reviewing the CFRE study guide, and also discussed all aspects of philanthropy.
How long did you spend studying?
I studied for the CFRE for three months approximately three to four times per week. I also read one of the books highlighted as a philanthropy reference in the CFRE study guide.
Do you have any study tips for others who are currently preparing for the CFRE exam?
I found that the CFRE study guide had useful tips. My study partner and I also signed up for the CFRE practice exam questions. The practice exam questions helped to understand the format and style of exam questions.
My other tip is to review your philanthropy information, get a good night sleep the day before writing the exam, and try not to get stressed out before writing the exam.
Many people feel anxious before their test date. How did you keep your mind calm and focused?
What kept me calm was knowing that CFRE questions are straight forward and not designed to be tricky. I was confident I could trust my knowledge of philanthropy and do well on the exam.
What was your reaction when you learned you had passed the exam?
I was very relieved. I had not been a part of an intense exam for several years and was nervous to go through the process. It was a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
For anyone debating whether or not they should take the CFRE plunge, what is your advice?
If getting your CFRE is on your “to do” list, then start working at it to get it off your list.
Collect and document all of your fund development experiences, connect with someone you know has the same goal, sign up at CFRE.org, and then work through everything one step at a time.