The Benefits of Fundraising Qualifications

As fundraising consultants, it is vital that we are as knowledgeable as possible if we are to present ourselves to clients as experts in our field.  Therefore, the value and importance of qualifications is always a topic close to our hearts.  Choosing the right qualifications for our particular work can prove challenging as we consider a range of factors including:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • How the qualification is delivered
  • Exams
  • Universal recognition for the qualification
  • Increase business

The AFC recently hosted an online webinar with three guest speakers who have expert knowledge of various qualifications, namely Ashley Gatewood of the CFRE (Certificate of Fund Raising Executives), Dr Beth Breeze from the University of Kent and Dr Claire Routley from the Institute of Fundraising

Ashley Gatewood, the communications and marketing manager for the CFRE International, opened the discussion after the Chair of the AFC, Caroline Hutt, introduced her and the other speakers.

Ashley is based in the United States but did her final year of university at Brunel in Oxford. The Certified Fund Raising Executive certification is the only internationally recognised, accredited certification for fundraising professionals. This means that should your work take you to another country then the qualification will remain valid without you having to complete any other elements. The CFRE debuted in 1981 and has a great track record as an independent third party that validates your experience and knowledge.

There are more than 7,100 CFRE’s in 25 countries proving that the CFRE certification is not just an ‘American’ certification.

In order to become a CFRE you must meet the following requirements:

  • Worked for 36 months in the last 5 years in a paid professional fundraising role and had clients throughout that entire period.
  • Accumulated 80 points of education/training (webinars do count as training for these purposes):
    • 1 point = 1 hour of training
    • 2 points = 1 hour presenting fundraising material
    • 10 points for a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Ph.D. degree
  • Be on a team that raised at least US $1.375 million in the last 5 years. If you cannot meet this particular requirement, then there are other ways to satisfy this such as with communications and management projects.

Application can be made online at www.cfre.org, and payment is only taken when your application is submitted. The regular cost is US $875. However, as a member of the AFC, the cost reduces to US $700 (a 20% discount). The CFRE examination consists of 200 multiple choice questions that can be taken at one of over 25 test centres around the UK (pearsonvue.com/cfre). The test is not currently available online. It is a global exam that must be completed within 4 hours and requires a pass rate of 500 out of a possible 800.  It is estimated that you will need between 40 and 80 hours of study time.  Currently, 80% of candidates pass the test. 

CFRE certification does not automatically mean that you gain more business, particularly as many organisations in the UK are unfamiliar with the qualification.  Nevertheless, when it is explained that, as a CFRE, you have been formally recognised by the only accredited worldwide fundraising certification it often gains the confidence of potential clients.

Dr Beth Breeze took to the virtual stage next. Beth is based at the University of Kent in Canterbury and is the Director of the Centre of Philanthropy, which she also co-founded in 2008. Beth delivers an MA in Philanthropic Studies. She has worked as a fundraiser and charity manager for 10 years prior to co-founding the Centre and, in that time, she took her Introduction to Fundraising and her Certificate of Fundraising which was, at that time, a CIFM completed through the Open University.

The University of Kent offers a Master’s degree in philanthropic studies. Beth established the course because it is what she wished had existed when she was a fundraiser. She knew at the time that research was going on but either couldn’t gain access to it or, if she could, she couldn’t find anyone to discuss it with. People join the course for a variety of reasons: some join because they want to study further and others because they have been told they need a Master’s in order to progress further in their career.

The course is designed to fit around people who work or who have personal commitments. It is fully online, even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The course has videos, webinars and live interactions to keep students motivated. The campus in Canterbury is beautiful and, in normal times, students on the course are considered full members of the University and are able to use the library and attend events. Normally, there is two-day induction course although this year everyone attended online.  There is also a study day once a month.

Some students never physically attend the University itself, especially those who are signed up for the course from abroad.  However, the lecturers still feel they know all their students well despite never meeting some of them face-to-face, as technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has changed the world and the way in which we interact with each other.

Beth is joined in delivering the course by permanent staff members Dr Ali Body (Director of Studies) and Dr Lesley Alborough (Pears Research Fellow) and between them they have written many of the main books that are essential course reading.

Beth gave a little shout out to Donna Day Lafferty from the University of Chichester, who was also attending the AFC webinar, as they are currently writing the Fundraising Reader together.  This is the fundraising version of the Philanthropy Reader and will soon be a core text on the course.

Beth and her team also draw on associates, honorary fellows and guest lecturers so that the students have access to all the latest ideas, thinking and research.

The course content includes:

  • Fundamentals of Philanthropy
  • The Art and Science of Fundraising
  • Volunteering and Society
  • Advising Donors
  • Global Philanthropy
  • Research Methods
  • A 12,000 word dissertation

This content is covered in six taught modules and they also teach students how to conduct a piece of original research which leads to a dissertation. The University is very lucky to benefit from the involvement of the Pears Foundation who currently pay for the staff to teach this course and Blackbaud who provide some scholarships.

If you complete the whole of the course then you will gain a Master’s degree, but there is also the option to do a Diploma which is just the six taught modules without a dissertation or a Certificate which involves the completion of three of the six taught modules. Often students dip their toe in with a Certificate first and then they get the bug and upgrade to a Diploma or the full MA.  Graduation is celebrated regardless of the course studied and takes place at the glorious Canterbury Cathedral.

Thinking about studying one of these courses but not sure then why not trial before you commit with the MA in a Day, which gives you an insight, via the University’s website at https://research.kent.ac.uk/philanthropy/home/ma-in-a-day/ . The topics reflect content covered in the course and for each topic there is free access to a lecture, reading and further resources such as podcasts, data sources and practitioner guides.  Topic choices are:

Topic 1: Fundamentals of Philanthropy

Topic 2: The Art and Science of Fundraising

Topic 3: Volunteering and Society

Topic 4: Major Donor Fundraising

Topic 5: Working with Donors and Supporters

The MA in a Day was actually designed as a result of Covid-19 in order to help fundraisers get access to some free training during these difficult times. It has remained on the website to help give a greater insight into the course.

Finally, Dr Claire Routley took to the virtual stage.  She has worked in fundraising for 12 years and specialises in legacy fundraising. Claire has completed a Ph.D. on why people choose to leave legacies to charities and was invited by the AFC to talk about the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF) qualification and the course the IoF runs.

Claire is a fundraising consultant and splits her time between that and teaching for the IoF. Claire described the certificate, diploma and advanced diploma provided by the IoF, but then went on to talk about fundraising apprenticeships, which will be available from October. These apprenticeships might be of interest if you are working with smaller charities that might find having a fundraising apprentice useful and affordable.

The IoF’s Certificate in Fundraising is the most well-known fundraising qualification within the organisation and is where the IoF has its largest number of students. Summing up the certificate, it teaches students to write good fundraising strategies. Students that sign up for the certificate qualification are often 18 months to 2 years into their fundraising careers and want to help formalise their practice. Claire believes that the core skills taught at this level are essential in helping people advance in their fundraising careers. The qualification teaches modules and processes that can be used now and will also be the fundamentals to be used as your career progresses.

The Diploma in Fundraising is designed for people that are at a management level. Summing up the diploma, it gives breadth of knowledge around the different fundraising streams and the ability to manage those streams and employ good practice within them. There is also a separate module dedicated to fundraising management. Claire feels this is really important as often people become good at fundraising and get promoted but then lack any management training, which requires entirely different skills. The management module covers such things as communication, motivation and leadership.

Probably the most interesting qualification for fundraising consultants who have been practicing for a few years is the International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising which is a Master’s level course. In brief, the course teaches you how to place fundraising at the centre of your organisation. It covers how to navigate the internal situation and how to change things such as power and influence. Claire found that when she originally did the course it was a real game-changer for her seeing how directors work at a senior level.

Both the Certificate and the Diploma can be taught face-to-face (or via Zoom during the current climate) or it can be 100% online with recorded lectures. All the courses expect approximately a day a week studying in terms of time commitment.

The overall benefits of the IoF courses are that you are gaining a qualification from a chartered organisation and they are based in good solid academic practice. Together with the other courses mentioned by the CFRE and the University of Kent all the courses are ideal for personal development and growth.

Following the speakers, the floor was opened to a Q&A session.

Q1. Is there any research to show that having the CFRE qualification or one of the other qualifications is valued by UK charity employers?

Ashley from the CFRE said that she didn’t believe that at this point there is massive awareness amongst charity employers within the UK of the CFRE, although there is definitely some. The CFRE do see many of those taking their qualification working for employers who also have their CFRE. They are encouraged to sign up for the certification by those who already have it as they are able to see the benefits, and also realise that the certification fills in any gaps in their fundraising knowledge. The test covers six key areas related to donor-centric fundraising.

Beth stated that having a Masters matters to some employers. Beth then turned the question on its head and said that when employers value their employees, they encourage them to undertake these types of courses.

Claire answered from the IoF perspective that often the certification is seen as a desirable rather than a must-have.

Q2. Who accredits the CFRE and at what level is the accreditation?

The CFRE has been accredited since 2017 by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute/International Organisation for Standardisation).

The accreditation has to be re-applied for every two years and is a very rigorous process.

Q3. What type of qualifications do students have before they come to do the MA at the University of Kent?

Normally people have a first degree in any subject although this isn’t compulsory.

When someone has not got a first degree, they would be asked to submit a piece of writing to demonstrate their ability. Often people are nervous about embarking on the Masters as it has been a long time between their first degree and now.

Q4. How many hours of study is required for the MA course?

Beth described the course as ‘lumpy’ with one week’s workload being completely different from the next week’s, resulting in some people doing a lot one week and not so much another week. This can partly be a result of how interested someone is in the topic being covered. There is an hour of video lectures (normally made up of two or three short videos), a couple of core readings and an online forum that people can join in. It generally involves more hours work in a week if an essay is due unless you are very well organised. Realistically it can absorb anything from one to ten hours a week of your time.

Q5. Claire, do you know what universities are offering the fundraising apprenticeships?

Claire was unsure about any universities offering this qualification, but the role of the IoF for the fundraising apprenticeships is to be an end point assessor. The IoF course would be a level 3 qualification so not a university degree level course.

Beth spoke about fundraising degree apprenticeships and said that it is something that the University of Kent would really like to offer, and that the best thing about them is that the fees are paid from the apprenticeship levy which all companies with more than £1 million on their annual payroll have to pay. However, Covid-19 and furlough has meant that the University of Kent has taken the decision not to offer a fundraising degree apprenticeship this year, as delegates would have to take on a new appointment and the current situation would make this difficult.

Donna Day Lafferty agreed that fundraising degree apprenticeships in this field are desperately needed.

Q6. Have any of the consultants found that having one of these qualifications helps in terms of winning new clients?

Caroline Hutt, Chair of the AFC, replied that having the CFRE certification had honed her skills.  She appreciated that over the years it has become easier to requalify, which is required every three years (although not the test). Caroline’s company, Hutt & Co, works in the education sector and she finds her clients respond well to qualifications. Although her clients had not heard of the CFRE initially they did google the organisation when she mentioned them.

Natasha Roe from Red Pencil has found that for some clients it does help whilst for others it has not made a difference. Much depends on the type of clients/projects. Natasha has a Master’s from the business school, formerly known as CASS, in marketing and fundraising, the IoF Diploma and is a chartered marketeer.

Claire commented that, although people may not be looking for certain qualifications, doing a higher-level course with a dissertation can help build your profile within the sector as it markets you as an expert. It is also a useful tool to have when undertaking public speaking engagements at conferences.

Natasha has found that by speaking about her dissertation she has now earned, through commission, the actual cost of doing her degree.

Beth re-iterated that everyone should look around and find the course that best suits them and one that is delivered in a manner that will suit their lifestyle and commitments.

Donna has had reports back from her graduates that, although is doesn’t always mean that they get the job, having the qualification is getting them an interview at the very least. This includes those that have worked for fundraising consultancies as well as those who have worked for charities. Donna believes that having qualifications like the ones spoken about today, and those that she helps deliver, help you to stand out.

Bill King of the IFC has currently just completed the first year of his Master’s. He said that one of his motivations for starting the course was because the IFC go for international contracts with big NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) and UN (United Nations) agencies. They frequently demand that the project lead has a Master’s level qualification at the very least. They don’t seem to care what the Master’s is actually in, but they do require that level of qualification. Bill is hoping that by gaining his Master’s it will help him win clients in years to come.

Q7. Are the IoF qualifications benchmarked to higher education? Do you know what level they are mapped to as it was mentioned that the International Diploma is Master’s level?

Claire responded that the apprenticeships are level 3. The certificate is level 4, the diploma is level 5 and the advanced diploma is equivalent to a Master’s which is a level 7 qualification.


Q8. Beth asked everyone what puts people off doing the qualifications?

Bonnie of Bonnie Clayton Consulting commented that she had done modules of the IoF certificate years ago as a young fundraiser at Scope as they offered it as an inhouse course. Although Bonnie did a degree and a CIM diploma (Chartered Institute of Marketing) she has never actually done any formal fundraising qualifications and doesn’t feel that this has hindered her in her career. She feels that she would struggle to fit in studying as a mum of two and working full-time. Bonnie said if she were to do one of the qualifications it would be more out of interest, to develop her knowledge and to feel that she would be doing a better job as a fundraising consultant rather than because she needed to have a qualification. Hearing what everyone has to say has definitely sparked her interest to do some more learning, but the amount of time commitment and when is definitely her main concern.

Caroline agreed that time is the main issue. Running your own consultancy normally is a full time job so the question is when do you find the time to do the necessary studying.

Bill confirmed that it hasn’t taken up as much time as he thought it would during this first year of his Master’s although he confirmed that, as he has worked in the industry for 20 years, he is not coming into this without any knowledge. The essays take the longest amount of time, but he has learned an awful lot during his first year despite his existing knowledge and experience within the fundraising sector. Bill acknowledged that it is a big commitment though.

Donna said that when she did her Master’s degree in social science research methodology, which was a new topic for her, she was also setting up the degree course for the University of Chichester and estimated that it took her a day a week.  However, on weeks when an essay was due, she did beg her family not to cross the threshold of the room on that particular weekend. Donna found it an intense two years but came out of it ‘like her brain was on fire’.

Natasha commented that often you are able to use a client’s project to do research and gain knowledge to form the basis of an essay or assignment.  This gave the client some “added value” for their strategy without them being charged for it so everybody won.

Claire Nethersole of CN Fundraising said that when she first started fundraising no-one had qualifications and family commitments would have made it difficult. However, at the present time, she feels it might build confidence and confirm whether she actually knows it all and is doing the best by her clients or whether there is more that she could do.


Q9. Caroline asked what support is out there for those who are studying?

Ashley said there is a UK ambassador so there is a person to contact if you want to talk one to one regarding the CFRE qualification. There are also a host of free materials on the CFRE’s website.  All the courses people attend can be added to the CFRE application form so that it is ready to submit when candidates have the required number of points. There is a practice exam which can be taken, which you do have to pay for, but is pretty affordable and is an effective way to measure your baseline knowledge so that, when it comes to studying, you know which areas will require more time. The CFRE run a lot of webinars which also help.

Beth commented that the reality of online teaching means that emails reach you at any hour of the day. WhatsApp groups also help with keeping in contact and the lecturers certainly don’t want people feeling isolated. Having said that, Beth realises that some people do not want that level of contact and interaction and the lecturers have to learn to accept that. It is often a judgement call as to what people are looking for and then having meaningful interactions that do not waste time. They also bring other people in to talk about relevant projects and share knowledge.

If you would like to know more about any of these qualifications then please look at the information provided by the speakers’ institutions via the following links.

CFRE – https://www.cfre.org/certification/

University of Kent – https://www.kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/769/philanthropic-studies

IoF – https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/events-and-training/qualifications/

The Association of Fundraising Consultants hope that the above has been informative and useful in helping you to decide whether or not to apply to do any additional qualifications that would benefit you and your consultancy.

UK Fundraising Professional Sian Newton on the Value of Earning a Fundraising Certification

Sian Newton became a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in early 2020 and has had a two-decade career fundraising in the UK.

The CFRE certification is the only globally-recognised, accredited certification for fundraising professionals. By holding the CFRE, each certificant shows they have demonstrated their understanding of globally-accepted best practice fundraising principles.

Sian has worked for some of the UK’s most well-known charities, including the British Red Cross. Here, she shares her insights on the value of consultants holding their CFRE and why seasoned professionals can benefit from earning a fundraising certification.

How did you enter the world of fundraising?
I left university knowing I wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector. I did a research internship for a charity and also some fundraising volunteering and decided that fundraising was right for me!

What is your favorite part about being a fundraising professional?
Working with people from all walks of life to make charitable giving happen. After more than 20 years, it still gives me a great buzz.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Be tenacious and persistent.

What is your personal philosophy about investing in yourself and staying active in your professional development?
I’ve always been proud to be a fundraiser, it’s something I take seriously. One of my favorite phrases is: Onwards and upwards!

How did you first hear about the CFRE certification and what made you decide to pursue it?
I heard about CFRE through my fellow Directors at Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants. There’s a real emphasis on professional standards and excellence and all the other Directors have been through the CFRE process. So, when I became a Director, I decided I wanted to follow in their footsteps. It was a personal challenge.

You’re currently a fundraising consultant. Why do you think it is valuable for consultants to hold an accredited fundraising certification?
Clients come to you for your expertise, knowledge, and experience. Having the certification is another way to demonstrate both the breadth of your knowledge and that it reflects up-to-date best practice.

There are two parts to the CFRE process: an application and exam. When you passed your CFRE exam, how did you feel?
Relieved and very proud.

You earned your CFRE after more than 20 years in the sector. Sometimes professionals believe that with that much experience they don’t need a certification. What advice would you have for fundraising professionals who have been in the sector for years and are on the fence about whether or not to pursue their CFRE?
Learning is a life-long thing. You can build on the knowledge and experience you already have. Go for it!

Remember as an AFC member you receive substantial reductions of fees for CFRE examinations and recertification.

Solidifying your fundraising knowledge with a credential

Do you value doing a job properly, thoroughly, and without shortcuts?

If you’re a fundraising professional, this means you’re likely to be the team member consistently adhering to the highest professional standards. You show up to work each day with a commitment to go above and beyond—grounding yourself in donor-centric fundraising principles that help your donor achieve her philanthropic goals.

Since 1981, the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential has stood for confidence, ethics, and professionalism in fundraising. It is a natural choice for fundraising professionals who consistently strive for excellence in all aspects of their work.

“The CFRE is the only globally-recognized, accredited certification for professional fundraisers,” says Eva Aldrich, Ph.D., CAE, (CFRE 2001-2016), President and CEO of CFRE International.  “For those working in the UK, holding your CFRE signifies you have proven your understanding of best practices that apply nationally and internationally.”

Currently, there are more than 6,600 CFREs in over 20 countries.

The CFRE journey

The online CFRE application is the first step. There are three sets of criteria you must meet and document on the application:

1) Education: Need to have participated in 80 hours of continuing education in the most recent five years (hours can be a combination of attending education and presenting sessions, as well as authoring fundraising articles). Points can also be awarded for university degrees earned in any year in any field of study.

2) Professional Practice: Need to have worked a minimum of 36 months in a paid professional fundraising role in the last five years.

3) Professional Performance: Need to have 55 points in this category. 1 point = USD$25,000 raised by your fundraising team. Fundraising professionals in the UK can convert the funds they’re raised in GBP to U.S. dollars at https://www1.oanda.com/currency/converter/. Points can also be earned for communications and management projects.

Demonstrating your fundraising knowledge

Once your CFRE application is approved, you will have one year to sit for the 200-question multiple-choice CFRE exam at any of the Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe.  There are 30 testing centers in the UK.

On average, CFRE candidates study 40 – 60 hours and tell us they learned practical information in the process that they then began applying to their jobs straight away. If studying might feel like a dreaded task you haven’t had to tackle since university, flip that thinking so you view it as an opportunity to upskill and verify your knowledge.

Upon passing the exam, you are a CFRE! Recertification is due every three years but does not require sitting for the exam again.

Cost

The initial application fee for first-time certificants is US$875. As a CFRE Participating Organization, members of AFC save 20% and enjoy a rate of US$700. Recertification is US$510 at the standard rate or US$408 for AFC members.  

Over half of CFREs report that their employer covers part or all of the cost of CFRE certification.

Get started

More than 93% of CFREs say they have gained increased recognition from peers by earning their certification, so why wait to get started?

There is no cost to begin your application. Once you start it, you’re welcome to log in and out of it as many times as you need to input your details. You only pay when you are ready to submit it.  

Begin your CFRE application at https://cfre.secure.force.com/siteregister.

Learn more about becoming a CFRE at http://www.cfre.org/certification/initial/.

Solidifying your fundraising knowledge with a credential