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Doing it for You: The Personal Importance of the CFRE Certification

By John Greenhoe posted 21 days ago


There are many well investigated and delineated reasons for earning the CFRE certification. Certainly, career advancement, building donor trust, and elevating the fundraising profession are among the most oft-mentioned points. 

All are important. What inspired me to become a CFRE more than 20 years ago was far more personal, and a reason I rarely hear mentioned.

Quite simply, I did it for ME.

Although much has changed over the years, in some circles, many individuals still shudder at the thought of a career in fundraising. 

As we all know, it is a most noble profession, but it is also often grossly understood.

Unfortunately, there are still many who view being a fundraiser as somehow undesirable. Being able to personally (and proudly) announce that I am a CFRE is a powerful method to combat this unfortunate belief.

Several years ago, I was honored to be invited to Vienna as a featured speaker for the wonderful Fundraising Verband Austria conference. The event’s theme was fantastic: “Proud to be a Fundraiser.”

Flying the Fundraising Flag

The whole idea of a conference displaying fundraising pride through pins, banners, and celebratory remarks was amazing to me. We should all be so vocal about what our efforts mean to the betterment of society.

I believe it is important to show pride in your work, but beyond that doubly commendable to prominently and publicly announce to the world what you do and why it is important.

The act of emphatically “planting a flag” as testimonial to the tremendous value of fundraising can be powerful.

During my more than two decades as a frontline major gift fundraiser, I always made a point of including the CFRE designation on my business card, introductory letters, and any other form of communication intended to introduce myself to a current or prospective donor.

As a result, “What does CFRE stand for?” was an often-posed query during the early stages of a discovery meeting.

Each time the question was asked, I absolutely relished the opportunity to respond.

Typically, the donor’s reaction started as quizzical, but eventually shifted to one of respect and admiration, “You faithfully follow a set of accountability standards, abide by the International Statement of Ethical Principles, and actively promote and defend a Donor Bill of Rights? I had no idea. Impressive!”


You and Your Profession

Beyond the communal sharing of fundraising pride (frankly, I’d rather be accused of being a bit boastful as opposed to reticent or even slightly apologetic), I want to reflect back on the concept of our personal sense of wellbeing as fundraisers.

What does our inner voice tell us? Does being a CFRE instill pride? For me, the answer has been, and continues to be, a resounding yes. 

Being a CFRE can serve to support our inner dialogue as we set out to raise funds every day. 

When I look in the mirror in the morning, it is not unusual to reflect on my upcoming day and the excitement about what is ahead. To fuel this enthusiasm, there must be a sense of inner confidence. 

Being a CFRE is concrete evidence that we believe in what we do. It reminds us that our work as fundraisers is important and that we deserve respect for it. 

To quote the English-born novelist Michael Korda:

“If you don't believe in yourself, then who will believe in you? The next man's way of getting there might not necessarily work for me, so I have to create my own ways of getting there.”

There’s no question there are many valid and important external reasons for becoming a CFRE.

Please consider, however, that there is great value in remembering what being a CFRE means personally to you.