After a career change that led her to the world of planned giving, Aquanetta Betts, CFRE, began pursuing certification. Currently, she is the Senior Director of Planned Giving, East Region, for World Vision. Here, she shares insight into what led her to become a CFRE and her advice for others starting on their own CFRE journey.
How did you enter the world of fundraising and what do you like most about working in planned giving?
For more than a decade, I worked as an attorney handling mostly wills, trusts, and estates. Many of my clients included gifts to nonprofits in their estate plans.
Most of these nonprofits did not have my clients on their radar because they were not major donors during their lifetime. However, these individuals had plans to leave significant gifts to nonprofits through their estates.
The combination of leaning on my estate planning experience and the opportunity to help donors with their charitable giving goals is what I like most about working in planned giving.
To date, what has been your greatest fundraising achievement?
There is no one achievement by itself. There are several items that revolve around helping individuals create their legacy plans that include a charitable component. Being a part of such thoughtful and kind gifts is a great achievement.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about fundraising?
The biggest misconception about fundraising is that it is easy. Many individuals believe fundraisers only make calls, attend events, make visits, and casually ask for gifts.
There is so much more to fundraising; there is an art and a science to the work (lots of planning and strategy).
How long had you been working in fundraising when you decided to pursue your CFRE?
I decided almost immediately, once I started working in fundraising in 2018, that I would one day pursue the CFRE credential.
Can you describe the moment when you decided you would go for your CFRE?
The moment I decided to go for my CFRE was one evening when I was on the computer surfing the internet and I thought about the CFRE application.
I had remembered what a fundraiser told me years ago to – start your application and go from there. I went to the CFRE website and the rest is history.
Why do you feel it is important that the fundraising profession have its own certification?
It is a credential that shows a fundraiser’s commitment to the best practices, learnings, and ethics in fundraising.
How long did it take you to fill out the application and how did you go about earning the needed education points?
It took several months. I started filling out the application one item at a time. I did not sit at one time and get through a lot of the application. I would start and stop filing out the application by adding information as I gathered details of a particular course or project.
In 2019, I earned the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) designation. When I added the three CAP® courses to my CFRE application, the education points were mostly satisfied.
When it came to the CFRE exam, how long did you study and which materials did you use?
I studied about 40 hours total, mostly on the weekends. I also attended a CFRE study group virtually (4 or 5 sessions). I used “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising,” AFP CFRE Refresher Course, CFRE 2020 Compass Study Guide, CFRE Practice Exam, and Quizlet.
I also wrote out my own flashcards on index cards and read them aloud, which incorporated all of the learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic). This exercise was very helpful.
Many people feel nervous about taking the exam. Do you have any tips to stay positive and calm?
Repeat the mantra, “I will be a CFRE.” Tell yourself that over and over again, especially during your study time. Most importantly, take care of yourself – eat nutritious foods, stay hydrated, get sleep, and exercise.
When you passed the CFRE exam, what was your first thought?
Whew! I am glad to have that exam behind me, and excited to join the esteemed group of others who have earned the CFRE designation.
For fundraising professionals weighing up whether or not to pursue the certification, what is your advice?
My advice is to go for it. Start the application now and keep moving forward.