In December 2012 I was offered the opportunity to volunteer for CFRE International by participating in the Pass Mark Committee for the new international exam. It was a challenging and rewarding experience that allowed me to be involved in the establishment of the first international exam being delivered by CFRE.

This has been followed by 15 months of voluntary involvement alongside CFRE International Board members on the CFRE Exam Committee. Despite being a CFRE for over six years, I have been amazed at the growth and robust development of this professional accreditation as CFRE becomes a truly global accreditation, now available in 80 countries around the world. It has been a privilege to assist this process by providing an Asia-Pacific perspective, not just on questions and answers in the exam, but in discussing and developing how fundraising as a global profession further qualifies what it means to be a highly ethical and proficient fundraiser in every continent in the world.

Qualifying for CFRE

I have found that for many people, and not just in New Zealand, anxiousness about the CFRE exam is a barrier that prevents them from looking into the process further. Before the exam, there is a qualification process that, when complete, will demonstrate that you have met the key criteria that has been established to ensure you are well placed to successfully complete the CFRE process. By ensuring that every applicant has a minimum amount of professional experience, education, fundraising achievements and voluntary experience, measures have been taken to ensure you have not only earned the opportunity to apply for their CFRE, but also the breadth of experience and knowledge to effectively prepare for the exam. With the new CFRE website, it is easier than ever to set up a profile and for no cost to begin the process of logging all your experiences from the past five years to assure yourself that … yes, I am ready!

International Job Analysis

One of the more tangible revelations for me, especially as CFRE becomes truly global, is that the whole process is based on what real fundraisers do in their jobs every day, all around the world. The current international job analysis process, which will be completed later this year, will involve feedback from fundraisers in Brazil, South Africa, India, Japan and Germany. No longer just involving fundraisers from the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, this has a genuine international flavour. There has been a perception that CFRE is very USA-focussed, and while it’s true that there are many more CFREs in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, the international job analysis ensures that all of the questions and the depth of knowledge it is testing is based on globally relevant and best practice fundraising, not just theory.

Scientific Approach to a Robust Examination Process

CFRE uses a professional examination services company to ensure that the exam is executed at the highest levels of international professional accreditation. I was amazed at the level of scientific analysis that goes into assessing every CFRE exam question, from referencing through to ensuring that there is not an unreasonable discrepancy between how a barely qualified applicant has typically answered the question compared to someone who is highly qualified. As the exam committee we are forced to review every exam question and need to be collectively satisfied that not only is it a good question with a good answer, but that it fulfils a range of criteria to ensure the integrity of the exam. The CFRE exam itself is ultimately the key factor in the whole process. It covers the six key knowledge areas:

  • Current and Prospective Donor Research
  • Securing the Gift
  • Relationship Building
  • Volunteer Involvement
  • Leadership Management
  • Ethics and Accountability

In this day and age where many fundraisers specialise and perhaps don’t get personal experience in all areas of fundraising, it’s assuring to know that all of the 200 multi-choice questions in the exam (175 that count for your score and 25 that are being tested to make sure they are psychometrically sound) are also referenced in the recommended reading material. So there is plenty of opportunity with the array of guidance offered to study effectively if there are areas of fundraising that seem unfamiliar.

Commitment to Helping First-time and Recertifying CFREs

Another interesting ‘behind the scenes’ observation has been the amount of time and effort that goes into assisting fundraisers throughout the world qualify, certify and re-certify. The renewal of CFREs, especially at a time when a number of the early CFREs are coming up to retirement, is an important focus. Increasingly, peak body associations like FINZ are looking to support applicants by promoting or seeking out study groups and connecting existing CFREs to help with exam preparation. This has a very formal structure to it in the U.S. and there certainly seems to be an opportunity to do more in New Zealand, especially with exam study groups and many willing CFREs.

As for recertifying, having done so a couple of times myself, the single biggest tip is to keep your online CFRE profile current and update it as you attend professional development courses, conferences and complete fundraising projects or campaigns.

So why Would You do it?

To be globally relevant as a fundraiser. To be recognised as someone who has attained a high level of professional practice. To demonstrate that your level of achievement as a fundraising practitioner is current. Because it is increasingly recognised in the industry worldwide as a standard that demonstrates a high level of achievement as a fundraiser. Because New Zealand fundraisers are working and achieving outcomes at a level that deserves to be recognised equally amongst our international peers.

Clive is the Managing Director of Pedley Management Limited and works with charities helping their with their major gift and fundraising strategies. Contact Clive on clive@pedleymanagement.co.nz

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