Is the CFRE Credential Worth the Time and Money?

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    That question was asked on one of the listserves where I am (usually) just a lurker, but was one I felt moved to answer. What I said was that….

    I’ve been a fundraising consultant for well over 30 years, and I obtained my CFRE when the program was relatively new – back in the early ‘80s. I maintained my certification for twenty years, and (for the most part) found the initial process and the required ongoing-recertification to be worthwhile.

    The CFRE is a basic certification. It says that the person who has worked for and earned the designation has a minimum of five years in the field and has an understanding of the fundraising/development basics.

    But that’s it !! Where having the certification “says” that a person has knowledge of the basics in fundraising, the certificate alone does not say anything about an individual’s skills or ability to use the knowledge.

    The field of fundraising is fairly broad, and most people who enter the field have little knowledge/understanding of what all of the elements are and how they relate to and support each other.

    So, my response to the question is: If someone plans on staying in the field, it would be to their advantage (and to the advantage of any non-profit that might hire them) to be serious about their education, to discover what it is that they didn’t know they didn’t know and learn to take seriously this field we work in.

    The certification process organizes the various elements, relates them to each other and presents them in a way that is relatively easy to grasp. In that context, I believe it is worth the time and cost of pursuing the certification … whether or not you maintain the certification over the long term.


    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? Email me at With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, we’ll likely be able to answer your questions.