I’ve been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1994. That means I’ve held the credential longer than at least 89 percent of all current CFREs! I’ve also taught the CFRE Review Course. Clearly, I’m committed to the idea of professional certification for fundraising practitioners.
Unfortunately, the CFRE designation has failed to realize its potential. In fact, the credential is becoming less, rather than more, relevant.
That’s why I’ve tentatively decided not to renew my certification this month UNLESS you tell me I should renew.
I’ve come up with a creative way for you to vote. My method will allow you to not only register a vote in favor of renewal, you’ll be able to convey how passionately you feel about renewal. To vote in favor of my renewal, simply go to my GoFundMe site (VOTE: Michael’s CFRE Renewal Fund) and make a donation. I estimate that renewing my CFRE and running this mini-campaign will cost approximately $600. If you think I should renew, contribute one dollar. If you feel more strongly that I should renew, contribute more, up to the $600 goal.
If we reach the goal of $600 by June 14, 2015, I will submit my renewal application to CFRE International. If we do not reach the goal, I will evaluate the feedback I receive and make a final decision about renewal by June 14. In any case, I will donate any unused funds to either CFRE International or the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation. Donations to this mini-campaign are not tax-deductible.
If you believe that I should not bother renewing my CFRE designation, you do not have to do anything to register your vote. I’ll see how many people visit this blog post and be able to compare that number with the number of people who vote with their dollars. So, I’ll see how many readers are voting by not actively voting.
With this method of voting, I will be able to gauge not just how much casual support there is for CFRE, but how much passionate support there is.
For now, I’m not passionate enough about CFRE to continue to spend my own money on renewal. Let me explain my position:
Lack of Commitment. By tentatively deciding not to renew my certification, I’m in good company. Of the eight past Board Chairs of CFRE International, the organization that controls the credential, three did not hold the CFRE designation as of 2013, according to the group’s annual report. In other words, 37.5 percent of past CFRE International Board Chairs do not hold the CFRE designation!
While CFRE International claims to have a high overall retention rate among CFREs, there is really no way to evaluate this. All the numbers reported by CFRE International prior to 2013 are suspect, according to Eva Aldrich, CFRE, President/CEO of CFRE International.
Anemic Numbers. Supposedly, a new technology system now allows for accurate reporting. Nevertheless, Aldrich has refused multiple requests to provide counts of the number of CFREs by country. So, we have no way of knowing, for example, whether the number of CFREs in the USA is growing, shrinking, or remaining the same. However, since 85 to 90 percent of all CFREs reside in the USA, I’ll assume, for the sake of this post, that the American CFRE growth rate is comparable to the overall growth rate.
In January 2015, CFRE International issued a statement, complete with a photo of fireworks, boasting that its 5,451 CFREs in 2014 represented a three percent growth rate over 2013. (Incidentally, the number of CFREs reported for 2012 was 5,630, which Aldrich now conveniently claims, was an inaccurate number; she further claims that she cannot ascertain the real number nor can she even estimate the degree of variance.)
The 2013-2014 growth rate of three percent seemed modest to me, certainly not worthy of fireworks. So, I did some research. Using data reported by The Urban Institute, I discovered that the growth rate among nonprofit organizations with revenue of $500,000 or more — in other words, among those organizations most likely to have someone on staff doing at least some professional fundraising — the growth rate was 3.6 percent. What this means is that the universe of nonprofit organizations doing fundraising has grown faster than the number of CFREs.
I’ll express this another way: Despite its modest growth, CFRE is growing more slowly than the market and, therefore, is actually losing market share.