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I’m proud to have earned my CFRE.

What is a CFRE?

It stands for Certified Fund Raising Executive, and is the professional standard for fundraisers in the nonprofit sector.  Like other accreditations, the CFRE means the fundraiser has gained a certain level of expertise. It also means that we aspire “to the highest standards of ethics, competence, and service to the philanthropic sector.” CFRE.ORG (Link to:

There are approximately 6,300 CFREs and 104 Advanced CFREs (ACFRE) in twenty-five countries.

There are pros and cons to taking this extra time-consuming and expensive step. For me, it was a way to prove myself. I learned fundraising on the job, through trial and error. A lot of trial and a lot of error. I didn’t have a mentor so I didn’t know where to go for professional development. I was just learning about AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) and I had not heard about the University of Indiana (Link to: and their philanthropy degrees.

I earned my CFRE in 2008, but before I took the exam, I had to submit my qualifications to the CFRE organization. The online application requires documentation about your professional fundraising career. Fundraising as a volunteer earns no points.

You do get points for:

  • The number of years in the profession
  • How much money you’ve raised
  • How many classes, workshops, and conferences you’ve attended
  • How many hours of volunteer work you’ve done.

Here’s a tip: Use the CFRE online tool (PLEASE LINK IF POSSIBLE) to document all of this throughout your career. Believe me, if you haven’t kept track, it’s almost impossible to recreate. Don’t be too creative. The CFRE staff conducts random audits.

I also chose to take the approved CFRE review course and work with a study group. The five of us became lifelong friends.

The CFRE process has changed in recent years as the landscape of the profession has evolved. Unlike the early days of learning on the job, there are now more than 100 nonprofit management degree programs offered at various colleges and universities across the U.S. Because of the availability of formal education about the nonprofit sector, the length of required experience has dropped from five years to three. The exam prep class is no longer in a lecture format, but an experiential one with lots of discussion.

Pursuing CFRE accreditation is a very personal choice. Some say it’s too expensive, takes too much time to study, and you don’t really need it.  However, I’ve noticed more and more employers saying “CFRE preferred.” According to the 2018 AFP Compensation and Benefits Report (Link to:, the average salary for a CFRE fundraiser is about  $21,00 more per year than the non-CFRE fundraiser.

Here’s a little more food for thought by Rory Green (Link to:

Last word: Do what’s best for you and for your career.