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Fundraising Credentialing: The Evolution of Our Industry

In March 2018, I obtained my Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential…

…after 17 years working in non-profit fundraising and marketing

…having reached the executive suite

…subsequent to publishing my first fundraising book

…following my election as President of my chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals

…succeeding a four-year journey speaking nationally on philanthropic and other topics.

You may wonder why I sought certification after all that, why I didn’t do it sooner, or why I did it all since I’d reached a career pinnacle. My story is a testimonial to a shift in the profession – one I’m proud to be a part of.

When I entered the industry post-college in the early 2000s, I knew no one who said, “I want a career as a fundraiser.” Everyone I knew “fell” into the profession. They may have been hired because they had connections to donors, corporate leaders, or politicians. Some came up in PR or event management and transitioned into development. Others began as board members or volunteers, sparking a passion for formal work in fundraising.

Far fewer people are “falling” into fundraising today. They are studying to become masters of their craft. I see the shift in the profession most obviously in the passion and seriousness our young professionals exhibit when I talk to them at conferences and trainings. They inspire me!

Today, there are colleges offering degrees in philanthropy. Associations are professionalizing career tracks and defining our roles and responsibilities. Colleges, consultants, and research organizations compiled years of data and study to quantify the growth and impact of philanthropy. Processes are now documented and formalized to help us be more strategic, efficient and impactful. Standards and ethics take center stage. Even the skeptics are beginning to see fundraising as an altruistic call to civic engagement which transforms lives and communities.

To be frank, I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t get my CFRE sooner. In my home region, few people had the CFRE compared to neighboring cities. I believe, as a region, we were a little behind, but that too is changing. More and more people are earning their CFRE.

Today I see our profession is moving in a healthy direction toward high standards of quality and practice. The CFRE is a great way to demonstrate not only that I have the experience necessary to be an executive in my profession, but I’ve put the effort in to understand the intricate details of this work. What a benefit that is to the non-profits and donors served by fundraising executives.

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