Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) is an international credential held by more than 6,000 fundraisers in 20 countries. The M. Gale & Associates team includes seven CFREs, including Karen Perry, the author of this article.


Nineteen years ago, my first supervisor in my first development job told me about the CFRE credential. A CFRE herself, she advised me to begin documenting my continuing education credits as if it were a given that I would pursue this credential too. Seven years later, I passed the exam and earned the credential. To me, being a CFRE means that I’m committed to my profession, to continuing education, to ethical fundraising and to applying best practices in my work.

Becoming a CFRE

Earning these credentials is a process that includes a thorough application and a written exam. You can begin the application online at www.cfre.org at any time, but when you actually apply to take the exam, only information from the most recent five years is considered.

When I earned my CFRE, my confidence as a fundraiser increased, underscoring that I have the knowledge and experience to excel in my profession. I also got a salary increase, which was great affirmation from my employer (and helped cover application and testing fees). Salary surveys show that professionals who hold a CFRE typically earn more – up to 20 percent more – than counterparts without the certification.

Keeping my CFRE and my focus

The work of initial certification and recertification — paired with a love for what I do — generated strong motivation and determination to keep my credentials and continue on my career path during significant life transitions. After my twins were born, I decided to step away from a role I dearly loved in pursuit of greater work-life balance. To maintain CFRE certification, one must work, attend continuing education sessions and continue to volunteer in the community. My plan was to do contract and consulting work, but to keep my CFRE I needed to ramp up my new consulting business quickly. This kept me focused and engaged at a level that paid off long-term.

Shortly after moving to Texas in 2016, I transferred my AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) membership to the Fort Worth Metro chapter and attended my first monthly meeting. Even though I knew no one in the room at that first lunch meeting, my name badge said CFRE. Those four letters gave me credibility and helped me make excellent connections which led to great new opportunities, including joining the team at M. Gale & Associates (insert link?) in 2018.

As CFRE Director for the Fort Worth chapter of AFP, my board role is to champion the CFRE and educate members of our chapter about it. In conjunction with the Dallas AFP chapter, we offer the CFRE Refresher Course every spring. On November 5, we will offer a CFRE Information Session to anyone who’s considering pursuing the CFRE. We will review the process of earning the CFRE, discuss requirements for applying to take the exam, and help you connect with others on the same path. We have just a few spots left so if you’d like to join us, please email me at karen.perry@mgaleassociates.com. Any time you’ve got a question about the process of earning a CFRE, please reach out. I love encouraging others who want to pursue the credential.