CFRE International - Broadening Best Practices in Ethical Fundraising Globally

by Paul Lagasse, CFRE International

The Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential review is better addressing the needs of fundraisers.

As part of a regular five-year review cycle, CFRE International has updated the application requirements and test content outline for the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential to better address the needs of fundraising professionals and the philanthropic sector worldwide.

"The changes we're seeing are not radical because fundraising as a profession hasn't changed radically since the test content outline was last updated five years ago," says Eva Aldrich, M.A., CFRE, President and CEO of CFRE International.

Aldrich says that many fundraisers don't realise that the CFRE credential is the only accredited credential for fundraising professionals, and while some of the changes may appear bold at first glance, they are really just subtle shifts in emphasis.

Identifying Baseline Best Practices

CFRE International ensures that the CFRE test content outline is reflective of the profession's current best practices through an extensive international Job Analysis survey conducted every five years. The survey, distributed to thousands of fundraisers in countries around the world, solicits information on what tasks fundraisers perform, how often the tasks are performed, the importance of those tasks to fundraising success, and the knowledge used to perform the tasks. Results of the survey (which is guided by psychometricians at CFRE International's professional testing agency in order to ensure test validity, with oversight provided by CFRE subject matter experts) are used as the basis for the test content outline. This reflects the base level of essential and relevant knowledge and experience that a fundraiser should have after five years in the profession. The results of the survey were enlightening - and reassuring - with most of the shifts focused on the advent of new technologies, not on core principles of fundraising.

CFRE Application Requirments Updated to Reflect the Current State of the Profession

Fundraising has matured as a profession throughout the world since 1981 when the CFRE credential was founded; however, application requirements had remained much the same.

"Young professionals coming into the sector today often have a formal education in development and nonprofit management that was simply not available when the credential was first established in 1981," explains Phil Schumacher, CFRE, ACFRE, Immediate Past Chair of CFRE International.

To enable the CFRE credential to better address the current state of the profession, the professional practice requirement was updated to allow fundraisers to sit for the exam after gaining three years' experience, instead of the traditional five. Schumacher says that the Exam Committee and board worked together closely over the course of 18 months to hammer out the details.

"It's important to know that at no time did the board discuss changing exam requirements. The CFRE exam continues to test baseline knowledge in ethical fundraising at the five-year level of experience. The professional practice adjustment was made so that extremely well-qualified candidates have an accelerated pathway to the CFRE credential."

Serving the Needs of Fundraisers around the Globe

In addition to the updated professional practice requirement, other changes acknowledge and attempt to provide equity across the many and varied environments in which fundraisers operate around the world.

Within the professional performance section of the application, the "Actual Funds Raised" point category has been updated to measure funds raised against one standard currency for all candidates around the globe. One point will now be awarded for the equivalent of each $25,000 raised in U.S. dollars, rather than 25,000 units of the local currency. Applicants working in countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will receive an "economic equivalency adjustment" of an additional point for each $25,000 raised in U.S. dollars.

In light of currency fluctuations that might affect "Actual Funds Raised" point totals , it is important to note that fundraisers can also count communications and management projects that directly support fundraising to fulfill the professional performance application requirements.

Another update reflects the differences in philanthropic environments around the world related to volunteer service learning in the "Education" category. Applicants can count up to ten points of service learning in this category.

To some, this change might seem to suggest that volunteer service has been devalued in the new application requirements. However, that's not the case, says Leo Orland, FFIA, CFRE, Chair of the CFRE International Exam Committee and Account Director at Robejohn & Associates in Melbourne, Australia.

"CFRE International continues to value and encourage volunteer service. We wanted to still keep volunteer service, but we felt it disadvantaged fundraisers in areas of the world where extensive volunteering is not as common, or where a variety of formal volunteer opportunities are not as readily available," explains Orland.

The Exam Committee, which thoroughly vetted the application requirements, was sensitive to changes aimed at the worldwide community of fundraisers, in part because its seven members hailed not only from the United States and Canada, but also Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. Clive Pedley FFINZ, CFRE, Secretary/Treasurer of CFRE International and Managing Director of Giving Architects represented New Zealand on the Exam Committee.

"With this revision we're acknowledging that the CFRE credential is an international certification and that it is continuing to grow," says Orland. "We can't, and we don't want to, stay where we have been. We're adapting to the needs of today's international community of fundraisers, while at the same time making sure that the credential honours its history and maintains the same quality that it has always had."

Poised to Expand

As CFRE International seeks to broaden best practices in ethical fundraising around the world, the CFRE credential promises to serve as a kind of skills passport for all fundraisers, whether they are working locally, nationally, or internationally.

Clive Pedley agrees. "Wherever I go in the world, fundraisers have the same challenges, the same concerns, and the same commitment to the profession. The CFRE credential underscores the fact that fundraising truly is a global profession with international standards and a clear commitment to ethical best practices."

Paul Lagasse is a U.S. CFRE professional and can be contacted through 

CFRE International - Broadening Best Practices in Ethical Fundraising Globally



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