Tips and Resources to Pass the CFRE Exam

In this blog post, Frank & Lizzie share their tips & resources for passing the CFRE exam.

Frank Mumford, CFRE
March 9, 2021 · 5 min read
Tips and Resources to Pass the CFRE Exam

After passing the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) exam in June of 2019, I have been approached by many people asking questions about how to pass and what are the best resources I found.  Shortly after becoming certified, four others at my organization also took and passed the test.

The CFRE is an excellent representation of a fundraiser dedicated to the profession and sets them in a different category.  All the studying that goes into passing the certification exam also provides more guidance, learning, and insight into best practices, ethics, and much more.

Is it Worth It?

A big question I get from people is taking and passing the CFRE worth it.  The “worth it” question is harder to answer because it is about what you find value in and your goals.  I found it extremely valuable to study, learn, and take the test.  Beyond the four letters after your name, it shows you are committed to the craft of fundraising, that you have the drive to grow and exceed, and it differentiates you from other fundraisers who don’t have theirs.  More benefits can be found here:  CFRE Benefits

Enough about me; I want to share about a colleague who recently passed the test and provide some fresh insight.

5 Questions For the Newest CFRE

Congratulations to Lizzie Rainville, Donor Stewardship Strategist at Greater Twin Cities United Way, for recently passing her CFRE exam. I thought, what a perfect time to connect with someone else and have them share their recent experience.  Below are five questions that I asked Lizzie to share her insight with you.

1. What were the best resources/readings you felt that fully prepared you for the test?

My favorite resource was the CFRE Practice Exam! I took the practice exam right when I started studying, and it helped me map out my study plan based on my weaker domains. I also purchased it again the month before I sat for the exam and took it every Saturday morning to practice sitting through the exam. 

I highly recommend reading Achieving Excellence in Fundraising. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, took copious notes, and made flashcards of the items I needed to review more.

2. What else did you do besides read the books and materials?

I was part of a weekly study group and had a study partner, and both were terrific resources. Once I was a few months into studying, I asked a friend if I could teach her best practices. 

It was extremely helpful to verbalize what I had learned, and she asked some great questions that enabled me to walk through processes.  70% of learning is doing and sharing, and if I could teach another, it cemented the information in my head.

3. How long have you been in fundraising, and what other prep work did you draw on?

I have been in fundraising for 3.5 years and have been lucky to work for organizations that have given me the opportunity to lead projects and learn about every facet of fundraising. The leaders at those organizations were amazing and invested a lot in me professionally. 

Since I am not at the 5-year mark, I purposely gave myself more time to study, knowing I had less experience than others but had a wide range of experiences in that time.

4. Was the test harder or easier than you thought it would be?

I felt confident because of how much I had studied and was so grateful that I prepped as much as I did. I started studying in October 2020 and passed the test on March 1, 2021, and wanted to give myself enough time to sit with the material and absorb as much as I could. 

5. Any parting thoughts for those prepping or thinking about becoming a CFRE?

Be joyful! The fear of failure is real, but it won’t make you a better fundraiser or help you pass the exam. I loved studying, learning, and sharing about best practices. 

It’s an honor to be able to work for organizations that align with my beliefs and connect donors to the missions of these worthy causes. If you feel the same way about fundraising, I would highly recommend pursuing your CFRE!

Thank you so much, Lizzie, for sharing your insight around passing the test, and congratulations again!  

My Tips

Some of the insights Lizzie provided above should put you on a path to success if you are considering taking the CFRE exam.  Most people I talk to do many of the same things, took the practice exam to see where they had weak spots, studied that section of the exam, joined a study group, and read.

How to get CFRE Education Credits

If you feel solid about the test but you are short on education credits, I would also recommend these resources to help get you there.

  1. Conferences - Most conferences offer up great sessions, and you end up obtaining anywhere from 5-32 continuing education credits.

  2. Online Webinars - As long as the presenter shares their session gives you CFRE credits that one hour webinar will add points; and if you find old recorded webinars, you could sit and watch 40 hours in a week (not recommended to watch that many at once)

  3. Major Gift Academy - If you haven’t heard of The Veritus Group or their fundraising resources, it is time you check them out.  The Major Gift Academy provides 30+ hours of educational value and credits.  Check it out, and I am also a Major Gift Academy Scholar!

  4. Other Online Resources - Places like DonorSearch, Nonprofit Learning Lab, and Nonprofit Hub offer free webinars, many of which give you free credits. There is so much more out there, but these are just a couple.

  5. CFRE Test Prep - My local AFP chapter provided a half-day refresher course where you ended up getting the study guide.  It wasn’t cheap (~$300), but it was worth it to receive the study guide and get a grasp of the test and others taking it.   

A couple of last parting thoughts, if you are thinking of starting the process, visit CFRE’s website and create your profile.  Once you create your profile, you can begin tracking your education credits and this gives you a great starting point to what else you need to apply.

If you want to learn more about the CFRE exam or what it means to be a CFRE, please reach out or schedule time on my calendar.  My calendar link

Always be thanking and lifting up both the nonprofit profession and those served in the sector!

Frank Mumford, CFRE
VP of Customer Success @ Gratavid
Frank serves as the VP of Customer Success with Gratavid. Previously he was a Senior Donor Advisor at The Greater Twin Cities United Way where he was first introduced to the opportunity Gratavid presented in connecting and engaging with donors through video. He holds a B.A. in entrepreneurship and a B.S. in economics from Northern Michigan University, where he got his start as a student telethon fundraiser. He has more than 13 years of fundraising, sales, and marketing experience across the higher education and social service sectors. Frank is a Board Member of AFP Minnesota Chapter and the NMU Alumni Association.
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