I am often asked by younger professionals about the Certified Fund Raising Professional designation, “Do you think it is worth it to get my CFRE?” they ask me.
“Only if your employer is paying for it.” Why?
For the initial certification the cost is $875 and increasing often. That’s $875 for a computer based exam, a complex and cumbersome online application, and a shiny certificate at the end.
Yes, if your Boss pays. Otherwise, No. It isn’t worth it. Get a mentor instead. Put that $875 into networking coffees and lunches. Buy a MAC. Go to grad school part time. Attend a really good conference, like AFP-IC.
No. Not with what most professionals are making these days. Not when ongoing education and training budgets are so miniscule in our non-profits.
Not when the certification is still a novelty, not widely recognized in our profession, nor valued, nor required as a professional standard (like a CPA, or pilot’s license). Less than 1% of professional fundraisers earn the credential despite 30+ years of existence. That’s statistically nothing. The market has spoken and the market is not demanding it.
Why is this? The blame it seems to me is squarely with the CFRE organization itself. If there is a more irrelevant non-profit membership group in the United States I would like to see it. I’ve been a paid up CFRE for ten years and I get a monthly email from them, and it is an absolute CLUNKER. A hodge podge and uncurated list of links to accumulated articles and non-profit debris from other sources. Tell me that I am wrong:
Is there value in this cruddy communication for mid-level and senior fundraisers? There is very little.
Does the CFRE organization offer meaningful opportunities for professional growth, advancement, networking, awesomeness to members? They do not, not that I have seen.
As a consultant, there is some professional value to me in the certification and so I am in the small minority who pays good money every three years. And so I paid my $450 out of my own pocket because I have a vague believe that the designation makes me more marketable as a consultant, as an outside expert and counsel. And mostly I would hate to be called out it by someone as a liar or a fraud if I kept using the designation.
So I spend the cash. But I bet most don’t bother recertifying. They either let it lapse and keep using the letters on their business cards or simply let go of the whole thing because it so irrelevant to a busy professional life, and an expensive hassle.
And here is the kicker…
One of the knocks again the Millennial generation is that they all want a trophy. I don’t think this is true. It is Generation X types like myself who still groove on certificates, checked boxes, credentials and shiny stickers. We are the Gold Star generation, believing in systems, processes, and professional achievement.
The professionals coming up alongside of us don’t. They don’t care about your expensive, increasingly irrelevant, time-consuming certification program. They aren’t going to show up and take your little test, with questions about “best practices” whose central tenants are still based on old timey thinking from the 1960s: “The Vice President is the only one who can go solicit the other Vice President,” “Never solicit a gift in a restaurant,” and other such gems from the Old Testament of fundraising.
So this is a challenge, CFRE International. Become relevant to this generation (and all of us in fundraising). Become an active leader in the issues facing our profession. Matter. Engage.
It is a Millennial World. And they don’t care. Change or Fold it up, CFRE.
Jeremy M, Hatch, CFRE.
Certified 2005. Recertified 2008, 2011, 2015.
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AH Thank you for this! I am currently at war with CFRE to get my $50 “processing fee” refunded after deciding that the $825 fee for the privilege of a piece of paper was B.S… I became skeptical after trying to fill out the absurd application that deemed by college degree, master’s degree, ten years of experience, and being part of devo teams that have raised tens of millions of dollars as inadequate to sit for their test. What the actual f? At that point, I start digging. What was this CFRE thing anyway? Led by a CEO with no frontline fundraising experience, and a handful of overpaid employees, I tried to find the 501c6 benefits. Alas, the ‘certificate’ appeared to be it. When I turned to a facebook group to ask about other peoples’ experiences, a trend became clear: Only consultants and people who got a CFRE in order to get a raise were in favor. My hunch is that consultants use it as a selling point – to clients who don’t really know what it is but who default to thinking it must mean something. In fact, one consultant who shall remain unnamed who was one of CFRE’s most ardent defenders, is a person I have taken a webinar from. The webinar stands from the hundreds of others I have taken for its atrocious quality, obsolete strategies, and back-patting. That was enough to tell me that CFRE is not a serious certification. It truly appears to be an online business that takes advantage of desperate np employees who want a raise. I won’t be surprised if we see CFRE in the news in the future for dubious business dealings.