Advice for Aspiring CFREs from Recent Honorees
David F.W. Selzer, CFRE, Laurie Wallace, CFRE, and Prince Ralph Osei, CFRE
Becoming a CFRE requires hard work and dedication, but the recognition and respect are worth the effort, according to people who have succeeded. Recently I sat down with three new CFREs who are also AHP members: Prince Ralph Osei, philanthropy officer at University Hospital Foundation in Edmonton, AB; Laurie Wallace, senior director of development at Carroll Hospital Foundation/LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, MD; and David F.W. Selzer, director of fund development at Community Cancer Center in Normal, IL.
Read on to learn about their journey and the advice they have for others considering undertaking the CFRE credentialing process.
How did you feel when you learned you passed the CFRE exam?
Prince Ralph Osei:
It felt so exciting and rewarding. The excitement from my supervisor and colleagues alone was so rewarding.
Relieved! I was in a testing center with three other people. We all wore masks, and my glasses kept steaming up. When I finished and went to see the proxy, he said, with little enthusiasm, “You passed.” I wasn’t sure he was serious so I asked him to repeat it.
David F.W. Selzer:
Euphoric. I was so excited. I did all I could to control myself as I walked to my car. Thank goodness I had a mask on or people would have wondered why I had such a big smile.
What made you decide to pursue your CFRE?
Having been in the industry for 9 years, I knew that having the CFRE credentials elevated your game as a fundraiser.
I have been a fundraiser for nearly twenty years. When I finished my master’s degree five years ago, my next goal was to complete my CFRE. I started my application but put it aside as life got busier. During the coronavirus pandemic, I wasn’t commuting my regular hour-long drive each way to work. I challenged myself to use the time to complete my application.
I have spent a career fundraising and learning, and I wanted the validation that the CFRE designation has brought me, and the respect of my peers.
How did you determine what you needed to study?
I had enrolled in several “Preparing for Your CFRE” workshops, so when the time came for me to get organized, I knew the materials I would be using.
The CFRE website recommended reading and study guides, and I also found a great vocabulary list of key terms. My boss and mentor gave me a training binder from an AHP primer course.
I realized after taking the self exams that I needed focus and some good old-fashioned book learning.
Altogether, how long did you study for the exam?
I had a three-month program. In the last month before the test date I studied 10 hours a week.
I devoted a week for each content area and studied every day for several hours.
I took the Fundraising Professionals course through Boston University. It provided me with 80 hours of CPE and the necessary study course to sit for the CFRE test. I scheduled the test for a month after the course was completed.
What was the most effective study tool you used?
The Achieving Excellence in Fundraising book and the practice test. My colleague also generously shared her notes with me, which was very helpful.
The AHP primer course binder.
Self exams and study blogs.
What advice do you have for other busy fundraising professionals on how to make the time to complete their application and study?
I had a million reasons over the years to not have the time. My advice is to find the time. Apply for grants if it is a financial barrier. Just do it.
Take it in bite size pieces. Print the application and inventory and begin to fill in the things you have already accomplished. You might be surprised how close you are. If possible, choose a testing period that is a down time in your program cycle.
It may seem daunting, but once you set your mind to it you can do it. The reward of attaining the CFRE is worth the time.
What do you enjoy most about being a fundraising professional?
I enjoy seeing a mission come to life, and how I can make a difference to that mission.
It’s rewarding to be part of the conversation of individuals changing the world we live in. It is the noblest of professions.
I love working with donors who genuinely care about their community, and who want to do something positive to make a difference. It’s an honor to help facilitate that.