In early 2020, UK-based fundraising professional James Dyer earned his CFRE. Below he shares how he came to pursue his CFRE and advice for others considering certification.
How long have you been working in fundraising and when did you know it was what you wanted to do with your career?
I’ve been working in fundraising and development for 10 years now.
I started working in fundraising accidentally in 2011. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin in 2010 with a music degree, I knew I wanted to carry on singing, so I moved to Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, as a professional singer in the cathedral choir.
The Cathedral was just setting up a £10m fundraising campaign around its 900th birthday and I soon got involved part-time to help with some bids connected with proposed activity around music.
Andrew Day, CFRE, and Amy Stevens, CFRE, were engaged as consultants on the project. I learnt a great deal about fundraising from them both and was in a position to take over the day-to-day running of the campaign from 2013.
During this first position in fundraising at Peterborough, I realized how much I enjoyed building relationships with prospective donors and helping them to feel good through giving. When I moved on in 2018, I knew that I wanted to continue to match donors with causes that aligned to their values and help support charities making the world a better place.
When you first heard about the CFRE, what made you decide to pursue it?
When I first got to know Andrew and Amy at Peterborough Cathedral, I admired their skills and expertise in fundraising.
I also admired their CFRE pin-badges, which they always wore to meetings. I remember learning that Amy was studying for her CFRE sometime in 2012 and logged it then as something I wanted to aspire to in the future.
As my career in fundraising progressed, it remained in my mind as an accreditation that would recognise appropriately my commitment to fundraising and match with my skills and experience.
When interviewing for jobs in early 2020, I was able to talk about studying for my CFRE and although I did not sit my exam until after the interview process, I believe that the conversation I had with the interview panel about CFRE helped me stand out from the competition.
I am delighted that I took my exam and passed just before the COVID-19 lockdown.
As a fundraising professional based in the UK, why do you think it’s important that there is a globally-recognized fundraising certification?
All around the world there exist people and organizations that want to support good causes and see them thrive.
As fundraisers, we are the matchmakers between donors and causes they believe in. This is true worldwide. An accreditation that is recognized globally demonstrates a commitment to best practices in fundraising that has universal application. It is multi-disciplinary and comprehensive.
As a fundraising professional, it is thrilling to be part of this international community committed to good causes.
From the time you began your CFRE application to when you completed it, how long did it take? Which part took the most time?
For me, the hardest thing about my CFRE application was getting round to visiting the website for the first time and registering for an account.
I had built up in my head that the process for application would be much more complicated than it ended up being. There was a little bit of research needed to confirm details of activity that qualified for inclusion in my application, but again, this turned out to be a lot simpler than I had imagined.
What is your advice for anyone who finds the application daunting?
Break it down. Step by step. Contact your CFRE Ambassador to help guide you through the application process. I would be only too happy to assist.
How did you approach studying for the CFRE exam? Which materials did you use? How long did you study?
Studying for the exam was a wonderful experience for me. As my main resource, I used Achieving Excellence in Fundraising as a course textbook, supplemented by some notes passed on to me by two other CFRE accredited fundraisers in the UK.
Before I embarked upon my study, I was paired with another UK CFRE who mentored me through the process. This was really helpful and I would recommend others preparing for the exam make contact with an accredited CFRE who would be all too happy to help. Contact Ashley at CFRE International to get connected to a current CFRE.
Did you feel any trepidation leading up to the exam? If so, how did you overcome the exam jitters?
I hadn’t undertaken an examination for several years, so there were general nerves because of that. On the day, the registration at the test center was very easy and I felt comfortable quite quickly. I was excited that I would receive my result straight after the exam.
The morning before the exam, I re-read the course curriculum and referred to notes on any area that I was less familiar with. Once I sat down at the computer and started the exam, any remaining jitters were focused into getting as many correct answers as possible!
What was your test-taking experience like?
Easy. I had to travel from Oxford to Reading to sit my exam, which was a nice change of environment. The exam center was a short walk from the station and very convenient.
How did you feel when you learned you passed the exam?
Excitement/elation/overjoyed. I couldn’t wait to get the certificate and badge and tell all of my networks that I was now CFRE certified. I have since added CFRE to all of my email signatures and tell anyone who will listen what it means.
I’m very proud to be a CFRE.
What would you say to anyone who is contemplating earning their CFRE but is not 100 percent sure if they should go for it?
Ask me about it. It’s had a really positive affect on my confidence at work and has increased my employability in future roles significantly.
I am thrilled to be part of an international fundraising network. It is excellent that the framework for reaccreditation (every three years) keeps me focused on constant professional improvement through employment, education, and volunteering.
It really is an excellent thing to do that I can’t recommend enough.