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Top 11 Fundraiser Certifications

This article provides an overview of the best certifications available for fundraising professionals looking to increase their knowledge and expertise.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications for fundraisers demonstrate to employers a level of competency in the field, and can help a fundraiser stand out from other candidates. They also provide fundraisers with an opportunity to stay up-to-date on best practices, new trends, and industry standards. In addition, certifications can open up career advancement opportunities by providing a path for professional development. Lastly, certifications are often required for certain positions or organizations, making them necessary for those wishing to pursue a career in fundraising.

This article reviews the top certifications for Fundraisers and explains how they can help to enhance a fundraiser's career.

What are Fundraiser Certifications?

Fundraiser certification is a professional credential designed to certify the skills and knowledge of individuals working in the field of fundraising. It is awarded by organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and other national and international associations. The certification process requires applicants to demonstrate proficiency in fundraising fundamentals, ethical principles, and legal compliance. The process also includes a comprehensive examination that tests the applicant's ability to develop, implement, and manage effective fundraising campaigns.

The primary benefit of fundraiser certification is that it provides recognition for fundraisers who have demonstrated their knowledge, skill, and commitment to ethical fundraising practices. This recognition can be an invaluable asset when looking for employment or promotion within the profession. In addition, having this credential on your resume can make you more attractive to potential employers as well as help you stand out from other candidates when applying for positions. Finally, obtaining this certification can provide valuable networking opportunities with other certified professionals in the field.

Pro Tip: When looking for a fundraiser certification, make sure the program is accredited and recognized by the appropriate local and state authorities. This will ensure that your certification meets all applicable regulations and is recognized by potential employers.

Related: What does a Fundraiser do?

Top 11 Fundraiser Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Fundraisers today.

1. Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE)

Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) is a certification program designed to recognize professional excellence in fundraising management. It is the only globally-recognized credential for fundraising professionals and is awarded by CFRE International, an independent nonprofit organization. The CFRE credential demonstrates mastery of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and best practices required of successful fundraising professionals.

To be eligible for the CFRE exam, applicants must have at least five years of paid professional experience in fundraising or volunteer management within the past 10 years. In addition, applicants must commit to adhere to the CFRE Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.

The CFRE exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions that are divided into six content areas: Leadership & Management; Resource Development; Analysis & Evaluation; Stewardship & Accountability; Prospect Research & Identification; and Professional Practice & Ethics. Candidates have three hours to complete the exam.

The cost for taking the CFRE exam is $395 USD for members of CFRE International and $495 USD for non-members. After passing the exam, there is an annual maintenance fee of $90 USD for members and $125 USD for non-members.

2. Certified Fund Raising Manager (CFRM)

Certified Fund Raising Manager (CFRM) is a professional certification program designed to recognize those who have achieved a high level of competency in the field of fundraising. The CFRM credential is administered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

The CFRM program consists of four courses and an exam, which must be completed within three years. The courses cover topics such as ethical fundraising, donor relations, grant writing, and financial management. Upon successful completion of the courses and passing the exam, individuals are awarded the Certified Fund Raising Manager designation.

To get certified as a CFRM, you must first become an AFP member. Membership fees vary depending on your country or region. Once you are an AFP member, you can register for the CFRM program online or through your local AFP chapter. The cost of registration depends on whether you are taking all four courses at once or completing them one at a time. It typically costs around $1,000 to register for all four courses at once.

Once registered for the course, it typically takes about 12 months to complete all four courses and pass the exam. After passing the exam and completing all four courses successfully, you will be awarded your Certified Fund Raising Manager credential from AFP.

3. Certified Grant Writer (CGW)

A Certified Grant Writer (CGW) is a professional who specializes in researching, writing and editing grant proposals for non-profit organizations, government agencies, and other entities. They are responsible for preparing grant applications that are complete, accurate, and compelling. The CGW credential is awarded by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI).

To become a Certified Grant Writer, an individual must have at least two years of grant writing experience or have completed an approved training program. Additionally, they must pass the GPCI’s certification exam which covers topics such as research techniques, proposal writing strategies and budgeting. The exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately three hours to complete.

The cost to take the GPCI’s certification exam is $350 USD. After passing the exam, individuals must pay an annual fee of $100 USD to maintain their CGW certification status.

Overall, becoming a Certified Grant Writer typically takes anywhere from three months to one year depending on the individual’s experience level and how quickly they can prepare for the certification exam.

4. Professional in Philanthropy (PIP)

Professional in Philanthropy (PIP) is a certification program offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). The program is designed to recognize and reward fundraising professionals who demonstrate a commitment to excellence and ethical standards in their work.

The PIP program takes approximately two years to complete, and requires participants to complete a series of courses, exams, and other requirements. Participants must demonstrate mastery of the AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice, as well as knowledge in key areas such as philanthropic research, donor relations, fundraising techniques, campaign management, financial management, and more.

To get started with the PIP program, applicants must first become members of the AFP. Membership costs vary based on individual circumstances; however, it typically ranges from $85-$250 USD per year. After becoming an AFP member, applicants can then register for the PIP program by completing an online application form and paying the registration fee ($195 USD for members).

Once registered for the PIP program, applicants will have access to course materials and resources that will help them prepare for their exams. They will also be able to attend webinars or seminars hosted by AFP staff or other experts in the field. Upon completion of all requirements within two years’ time, participants will receive their PIP certification.

5. Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP)

Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP) is a professional certification program designed for nonprofit accounting professionals. It is offered by the National Association of Certified Public Accountants (NACPA). The CNAP program provides specialized training and education in nonprofit accounting, auditing, financial reporting, and tax compliance.

To become a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional, you must meet certain educational and experience requirements. You must have a bachelor's degree or higher in accounting or related field from an accredited college or university, as well as two years of full-time work experience in the field of nonprofit accounting. In addition, you must pass the CNAP exam administered by NACPA.

The CNAP exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as nonprofit financial statements and reporting, budgeting and forecasting, internal controls, taxation, audit procedures, and other related topics. The exam takes approximately three hours to complete.

The cost to take the CNAP exam is $250 for members of NACPA and $350 for non-members. Once you pass the exam, there is an additional fee of $100 for certification renewal every two years.

6. Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®)

Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) is a professional designation offered by the American College of Financial Services. It is designed to help financial advisors provide comprehensive philanthropic advice to their clients. The CAP® program provides advisors with the knowledge and resources needed to effectively advise clients on charitable giving strategies, including planned giving, endowment building, and donor advised funds.

The CAP® program consists of two courses: Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP® I) and Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy Advanced Applications (CAP® II). Both courses are available online or in-person and must be completed within two years of starting the program.

In order to receive the CAP® designation, advisors must successfully complete both courses, pass a final exam, and submit a written essay demonstrating their understanding of philanthropic planning. The cost for the program is $2,500 for members of the American College of Financial Services and $3,500 for non-members.

Once an advisor has received their CAP® designation, they can use it to demonstrate their commitment to providing comprehensive philanthropic advice to their clients.

7. National Society of Fundraising Professionals Certification Program (NSFP-CP)

The National Society of Fundraising Professionals Certification Program (NSFP-CP) is a certification program designed to recognize and promote the highest standards of professional fundraising practice. The program is administered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), an international organization dedicated to promoting ethical and effective fundraising.

The NSFP-CP consists of three levels: Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive (ACFRE), and Master Certified Fund Raising Executive (MCFRE). Each level requires applicants to meet specific educational, experience, and examination requirements.

To obtain the CFRE designation, applicants must have five years of full-time professional fundraising experience, complete at least 75 hours of continuing education courses related to fundraising, and pass a comprehensive written examination. The ACFRE designation requires ten years of full-time professional fundraising experience, completion of at least 150 hours of continuing education courses related to fundraising, and passing a comprehensive written examination. To obtain the MCFRE designation, applicants must have fifteen years of full-time professional fundraising experience, complete at least 225 hours of continuing education courses related to fundraising, and pass a comprehensive written examination.

It typically takes between two and four years to complete all requirements for each level of certification. The cost for each level varies depending on the applicant’s location but generally ranges from $500-$1,000 USD.

8. Association of Fundraising Professionals Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (AFP-ACFRE)

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (AFP-ACFRE) is an international certification program for fundraising professionals. It is the highest level of recognition available to individuals in the field of philanthropy and fundraising. The AFP-ACFRE recognizes individuals who have achieved a high level of professional development and expertise in the field.

It takes approximately two years to complete the requirements for the AFP-ACFRE certification. To become certified, applicants must have at least seven years of full-time, paid professional experience in fundraising or related activities, including five years at a senior management level. They must also pass a comprehensive written examination that covers topics such as ethics, law, financial management, donor relations, volunteer management and more. In addition, applicants must submit letters of recommendation from three current or former employers or colleagues who can attest to their qualifications and experience.

The cost to apply for the AFP-ACFRE certification is $395 USD for members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and $495 USD for non-members. This fee includes access to study materials and resources, as well as one attempt at the written exam. If you need additional attempts at the exam you will be required to pay an additional fee each time.

Once certified, individuals are required to maintain their certification through continuing education courses and activities that demonstrate ongoing learning in fundraising practices.

9. Association of Fundraising Professionals Master’s Certificate in Fundraising Management (AFP-MCFM)

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Master’s Certificate in Fundraising Management (AFP-MCFM) is a comprehensive program designed to equip fundraising professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to become successful in their roles. The program consists of six courses, each focusing on different aspects of fundraising management. It takes approximately 18 months to complete the program, including completion of all coursework and an internship.

To get the AFP-MCFM, individuals must first become a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). They must then complete the required six courses and an internship. Each course is offered online or in person, depending on availability. The courses are: Fundamentals of Fundraising; Major Gifts; Planned Giving; Grant Writing; Special Events; and Donor Relations/Stewardship.

The cost for the AFP-MCFM varies depending on whether you are taking individual courses or completing the entire program. For individual courses, prices range from $250-$500 per course plus any applicable taxes or fees. For those who wish to complete the entire program, there is an overall cost of $2,500 plus any applicable taxes or fees. This includes all six courses as well as access to additional resources such as webinars and discussion boards.

10. Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement Certification Program (APRA-CP)

The Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement Certification Program (APRA-CP) is a professional certification program designed to recognize and promote the knowledge, skills, and abilities of experienced researchers in the field of advancement. The APRA-CP provides an opportunity for researchers to demonstrate their mastery of the profession by passing a comprehensive examination.

The APRA-CP exam consists of two parts: a multiple-choice section and an essay portion. The multiple-choice section covers topics such as research methods, data analysis, fundraising techniques, donor relations, and other related topics. The essay portion requires candidates to demonstrate their knowledge in one or more areas of advancement research.

It typically takes six to nine months to complete the APRA-CP program. Candidates must first apply for the exam by submitting an application form and paying a fee. Once approved, they will receive study materials and be able to register for the exam. After passing both portions of the exam, candidates will receive their certificate from APRA.

The cost of taking the APRA-CP exam varies depending on whether you are an APRA member or nonmember at the time you register for the exam. For members, it costs $395; for nonmembers, it costs $495.

11. National Council on Nonprofits Certificate in Nonprofit Governance and Leadership (NCN-CNL).

The National Council on Nonprofits Certificate in Nonprofit Governance and Leadership (NCN-CNL) is an online training program that provides nonprofit professionals with the knowledge, skills, and tools to effectively lead their organizations. The program consists of six modules that cover topics such as board governance, financial management, legal compliance, fundraising, strategic planning, and public relations. The program takes approximately 10 weeks to complete and can be completed at your own pace.

In order to obtain the NCN-CNL certificate, you must successfully complete all six modules and pass a final exam. The cost for the program is $499 for members of the National Council on Nonprofits and $599 for non-members. Upon successful completion of the program, you will receive a digital certificate of completion from the National Council on Nonprofits.

Do You Really Need a Fundraiser Certificate?

Fundraising certificates are not a requirement or even a necessary part of any fundraising activity. Fundraiser certificates can be used to recognize the efforts of volunteers and donors, but they are not essential to the success of a fundraiser.

There are many other ways to recognize the hard work and dedication of those involved in a fundraiser. For example, you could host an appreciation event for your volunteers and donors featuring food, music, and other activities. You could also send out thank you cards or emails expressing your gratitude for their support. Additionally, depending on the size of your organization, you might consider awarding monetary prizes or awards to top fundraisers or donors.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether or not you choose to distribute fundraiser certificates as part of your fundraising efforts. It is important to remember that while certificates may be appreciated by volunteers and donors, they are not required for a successful fundraiser.

Related: Fundraiser Resume Examples

FAQs About Fundraiser Certifications

1. What types of Fundraiser Certifications are available?

Answer: There are several different types of Fundraiser Certifications available, including Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP), and Institute for Charitable Giving’s Fundraising Certification Program (FCP).

2. How long does it take to become certified?

Answer: The amount of time required to become certified depends on the type of certification you pursue. Generally, CFRE certifications require a minimum of three years of professional fundraising experience and passing an exam. CNP certifications require a minimum of two years in the nonprofit sector and passing an exam. FCP certifications require completing a series of courses and passing an exam.

3. How much does it cost to become certified?

Answer: The cost to become certified varies depending on the type of certification you pursue, but generally ranges from $200 to $1,000 or more for the application fee plus any additional fees for taking the exam and/or coursework.

4. What benefits come with becoming certified?

Answer: Becoming certified can help fundraisers stand out from their peers by demonstrating their knowledge and commitment to ethical fundraising practices. It also may open up career opportunities and provide access to networking events or other resources that can help further their fundraising career goals.

5. Do I need to be re-certified every year?

Answer: Generally speaking, no—once you have achieved your certification, it is valid until you choose to retire it or if your organization changes its standards or requirements for maintaining certification status. However, some certifications may require continuing education credits or other activities in order to maintain your status as a certified professional fundraiser.