What are the requirements for the CFRE Programme?
The CFRE certification process consists of three parts: a written application, a written examination; and agreement to uphold a code of ethics and Accountability Standards. There is a requirement to recertify every three (3) years.
What is required for the written application?
The application works on a point system. You must reach a minimum number of points for each of four sections: Education; Professional Practice; Performance; and Service. Applications must report the minimum number of points in order to be considered.
What are the Education requirements?
You will need to report conferences, workshops, seminars and other types of training in which you have participated during the past 5 years. Examples include, national, local or regional conferences of professional associations (AHP, CASE, CRD, NCPG, AFP, ASAE, etc.); conferences conducted by your organization (Red Cross, YMCA, hospital/university systems); independent workshops or seminars (Fred Pryor; Robert Sharpe); course offered through colleges or universities; technology training (specific software, internet). You earn one (1) point for each hour you attended these sessions. See our CE Credit Policy for more details.
What if I didn't keep track of courses I attended?
You can easily keep track of all your activities by creating an online CFRE Application. You will need some basic information about educational programmes you have attended. Suggestions for reconstructing your professional continuing education include reviewing old daytimers or appointment calendar, cancelled checks or check registers. Check with the organization who hosted the activity to see if they maintain records. CFRE International does not maintain conference attendance records.
How do I document Professional Performance?
There are three ways to earn points in the Professional Performance category. 1st, completion of communications activities (PDF) which furthered your development office goals. 2nd, management projects (PDF) which supported or improved development office goals/function. 3rd, actual funds raised under your direction.
I am a consultant and I don't raise funds, my clients do. Can I still qualify?
Yes. Many consultants view themselves as 'temporary' or 'on-loan' staff for their clients and feel comfortable reporting funds raised. However, many others don't. Those consultants primarily use Management (PDF) or Communication (PDF) activities to earn points. Board training, strategic planning, feasibility studies, or development of case statements are just as important to the work of a development department as raising dollars.
What is the application process?
Candidates must submit a completed application no later than 60 days before a desired exam date. Applications are reviewed. If there are any questions or concerns about your application, you will be contacted. If your application is approved, 30 days before an exam you will be sent your Authorisation to Test (ATT) letter.
Does my score depend on the group I take the exam with, is it graded on a curve?
CFRE International works with its professional testing agency to set a passing score. This score remains the same regardless of how many people test, who those people are, or how well they do on the exam. The exam is not graded on a curve. There is not a predetermined number of people who can pass.
What is the pass rate for the exam?
The score a candidate receives on the exam is related to the number of questions they answered correctly. How well a candidate does on the exam depends on that candidate's experience and familiarity with the core body of knowledge tested on the exam. As a result, the pass rate from exam site to exam site, and from year to year, varies greatly. However, over the past several years approximately 76% of first-time test takers have been successful. The overall pass-rate is approximately 70%.
What happens after I take the exam?
If you take the exam in North America, you will receive a preliminary score report before you leave the testing centre. Your final and detailed score report will be mailed to you within three (3) weeks of the close of the testing window.
If you took the exam outside of North America, your answer sheets are sent directly to CFRE International’s professional testing agency. You will receive your scores approximately 4 weeks following an exam date.
For all candidates, at the same time you receive your official scores, CFRE International receives a copy. Approximately 2 weeks after receipt of your scores, you will receive official notification regarding your CFRE status.
If I don't pass the exam, can I still be considered for the CFRE on the merits of my application?
No. All individuals awarded the CFRE must meet the qualifications set forth in the written application AND receive a passing score on the written exam.
What happens if I don't pass the exam?
Once your application is approved, it is valid for a twelve month period. If you don't pass the exam, you can re-take it. There is a fee to retake the exam, and you must wait three months before taking it again. You can take the exam every three months during the 12 month period, if necessary. At the end of 12 months, you must submit a new application and pay the full application fee.
Do I have to be a member to become a CFRE?
The CFRE certification process is independent of membership in any organization. You do not need to be a member of any organization to apply to the CFRE Program. Also, achieving CFRE status does not 'automatically' make you a member of any organization. Individuals who hold current membership in our participating organisations can apply for a reduced fee.
I have been raising money as a volunteer for many more than the 5 years required. Can I become a CFRE?
Currently, CFRE International requirements state that you must be a paid, full-time professional member of a fundraising staff or a paid consultant to not-for-profit organizations.
What is the exam like?
The written exam consists of 225 multiple choice questions. The exam items test your knowledge in six areas: Current and Prospective Donor Research; Securing the Gift; Relationship Building; Volunteer Involvement; Management; and Accountability. All candidates are provided with a detailed outline (PDF) of what is covered on the exam and a list of bibliographic resources to help you review for the exam.
My organisation doesn't have a planned giving program. Can I still pass the exam?
The CFRE exam is designed to test the baseline fundamental knowledge a candidate would have after 5 years. The exam covers a broad range of topics and does not expect expertise in any specific area. As long as you have a good understanding of the basic principles of various types of fundraising, you will not be 'penalized' for not having a lot of experience with a particular type of campaign or development function.
Can I see which questions I got wrong on the exam?
For security reason, CFRE International does not permit access to or release answer sheets, test booklets, or previously 'used' exams. The score report you received provides you with information on how you performed in each subject area. You can compare 'Your Score' with the 'Total Number' column. The 'Average Score' column shows the average number correct of all those who have taken this form of the exam to date.
How do I study for the exam?
The CFRE exam is a generalist exam designed to test the knowledge and skills you use on the job on a daily basis. It is designed to test mastery of knowledge of best practices and how to apply them. It is not an 'information recall' test which is the type of test we are used to from school. Because the exam is testing 'practice' there is not a single study source.
CFRE International provides candidates with a bibliography of recommended reading materials. It is not expected that candidates read all the texts on the list, nor is it an exhaustive list. This is a listing of publications most often cited by exam item writers.
You can use our Study Wizard to help identify areas on which you may wish to focus your study.
I have heard the AFP CFRE Review Course, formerly the Survey Course, is a 'prep' of review for the CFRE exam. Is this true?
The AFP CFRE Review Course, formerly the Survey Course, is an educational programme which provides candidates with a broad overview of many areas of fundraising. Some topics covered in the course are similar to topic areas covered on the exam. However, some areas of the course are not found on the exam. Likewise, some areas tested on the exam are not covered in the course.
CFRE International recommends that each candidate develop a personal study plan that will meet his or her specific gaps in knowledge. ANY educational courses you take will help build your foundation of knowledge and therefore help you be more successful on the exam.
Some organisations choose to offer the AFP course or have developed programmes of their own based on the CFRE Test Content Outline (PDF). Others offer less formal study groups. You may find this type of review helpful, especially if there is a particular area of fundraising in which you do not have experience. However, candidates should not expect any course to be a “magic bullet” that will take care of all their study needs.
International standards for certification programmes prohibit the organisation that gives the exam from also preparing candidates for the exam. As a result, CFRE International does not sponsor or endorse any educational programmes designed to prepare candidates for the CFRE examination. CFRE International is not involved, in any way, in the development of any of these courses.