By Vanessa Abaya
I achieved my CFRE in 2008 and whenever I’m asked whether it’s worth it, I often answer: “It depends on why you want to achieve your CFRE.” There are many opinions about the CFRE, ranging from dismissive through to essential. My own reasons for maintaining my CFRE are relatively personal.
Establish a solid education foundation - Certification requires a minimum amount of education credits. As a CFRE, I regularly attend conferences, roundtables and other education offerings to ensure that I have a strong grasp of trends and developing programs that will help advance my on-the-job practice. As a CFRE, I also have the occasional privilege to share my experience and knowledge with colleagues. I am a stronger and more confident teacher and speaker because of this educational foundation.
Commitment to our profession – For many of us, we chose this field because we wanted to change the world for the better. I am proud to be a fundraising professional and I cannot imagine having a different career. I am grateful to CFRE for advancing the role of fundraisers everywhere.
Understanding volunteerism – Another aspect to the CFRE is volunteer requirements. As fundraisers, we spend so much time working with volunteers, but sometimes fail to appreciate how much they have to balance in their own career and personal lives in order to contribute effectively to our respective organizations. Through the CFRE, I have gained a deeper understanding of the challenges that volunteers face everyday. With this understanding, I have become a better partner to our valuable volunteers.
While I am proud of my CFRE, it becomes meaningless when it’s not combined with real-world experience. When I am interviewing a candidate for a position or when I’m trying to ascertain a colleague’s mastery of our profession, the CFRE is only one of many criteria I consider. Unfortunately, I have met enough colleagues with their CFRE who I would consider lacking in direct fundraising experience and unable to deliver on the job. Ultimately, experience matters.
Should you bother becoming certified? If it enhances your pursuit of excellence in our profession, you may want to consider writing the exam. Certification is a significant investment and you will have to think carefully about your own reasons for wanting those four letters after your name. Until you decide if the CFRE is for you, please continue to contribute in the advancement of our profession through sound practice, an ethical approach to fundraising and active participation in our professional associations.
Vanessa Abaya has worked as a fundraising professional for a variety of organizations over the past 17 years, including the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, ROM Governors, AIDS Committee of Toronto, and the Vancouver Playhouse. She recently returned to Vancouver, after building a solid track record as a major gift fundraiser in Toronto. She currently serves as Senior Director of Philanthropy at BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, managing the major gift, leadership giving and planned giving programs. She is an active volunteer with AFP, most recently serving on the Board of the Vancouver Chapter. She obtained her CFRE designation in 2008.