President's Perspective Blog

Fundraising Leadership: Certification and Lifelong Learning

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There’s a lot of ways we can show leadership in the profession, and one important way is something being celebrated this year - 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) credential. 

The CFRE was developed by AFP (then the National Society of Fund Raising Executives) in the 1970s (it took almost 10 years), and the first class of CFREs was announced in 1981. There are now more than 7,500 CFREs around the world.

Since AFP originally created the CFRE, some people think we still run the day-to-day operations of the credential. But no, that’s not the case and hasn’t been the case for several decades. That torch was passed to CFRE International, a fully independent organization, in 2001. AFP isn’t affiliated with CFRE International in any way, and we haven’t been involved in the management or oversight of the program in 20 years. However, we are one of many organizations in our sector that share in the vision of promoting and advancing the fundraising profession through credentialing. 

I’m a big believer in certifications. I’m a CPA: a certified public accountant, and I’ve seen a few others in the AFP world who are CPAs. This was an important and very difficult achievement but one well worth the effort for those that stuck with it. The same goes for fundraising certifications. Achieving a certification shows leadership. It means you’ve challenged yourself to attain specific  knowledge and skills, you’re committed to the profession and you can serve as a role model for others. 

As fundraisers take on larger roles at their organizations, becoming responsible for marketing, communications, sales, management, and many other areas, leadership has become so critical. We have to develop an entirely different set of skills and knowledge—related to managing mental health, dealing with intergenerational teams, hiring and leading staff, transforming organizational culture, and advancing inclusion, diversity, equity and access. That’s why AFP is creating a new fundraising leadership program, set to launch in late 2022 , encourages members to be mentors (and mentees), and holds our annual leadership conference, AFP LEAD, in October. 

Your leadership journey is about lifelong learning. Becoming certified and mastering fundraising knowledge is an important step on that journey. But your leadership journey doesn’t end there. Find and/or become a mentor, continue to learn and refine both your fundraising and leadership skills through different programs and events and encourage others to hone their fundraising skills.

We need leaders in the profession, and there are many opportunities in front of you. Why not start by joining us at AFP LEAD on Oct. 18 – 20, in Indianapolis, Ind., to learn all about the skills and knowledge I’ve mentioned here in this message, plus much more?


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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA


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