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Top 11 Fundraising Director Certifications

This article will provide an overview of the top certifications available for fundraising directors, including information on prerequisites and benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are important for a fundraising director in the job market because they demonstrate that the individual has the necessary skills and experience to be successful in the role. Certification programs provide an opportunity to learn about best practices and gain knowledge from industry experts, as well as providing proof of proficiency. Certifications also make a fundraising director more attractive to potential employers, as they demonstrate commitment to professional development and knowledge of up-to-date standards and regulations in the field. Having certifications can also help a fundraising director stand out from other candidates when applying for positions.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for Fundraising Directors and explain how they can help advance a fundraising director's career.

What are Fundraising Director Certifications?

Fundraising director certification is a professional designation that recognizes an individual’s expertise in the field of fundraising. It demonstrates to employers, donors and other stakeholders that the individual has achieved a high level of knowledge and understanding in the core areas of fundraising, including strategic planning, donor acquisition, donor relations and stewardship, grant writing and proposal development, event planning and management, and budgeting.

Holding a certification can help fundraisers to stand out from their peers when applying for jobs or contracts, as it serves as a tangible measure of their capabilities. Additionally, having a certification can provide professionals with greater confidence when leading fundraising initiatives. By taking part in continuing education courses and networking events associated with certification programs, fundraisers can stay current on industry trends and develop valuable relationships with colleagues. Finally, holding a certification can demonstrate to potential donors that they are working with an experienced and competent fundraiser who is committed to continued learning within the field.

Pro Tip: Investing in a fundraising director certification program can be a great way to gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully lead a fundraising team. Look for programs that offer practical, hands-on learning experiences and provide access to experienced professionals who can mentor you throughout the process.

Related: What does a Fundraising Director do?

Top 11 Fundraising Director Certifications

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

1. Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE)

Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) is an internationally recognized certification for fundraising professionals. The CFRE credential is designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate the knowledge, skills and commitment necessary for successful fundraising management. It is a voluntary certification program administered by CFRE International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to setting standards in philanthropy through a valid and reliable certification process.

The CFRE application process requires applicants to meet certain eligibility requirements and pass an exam that covers topics such as donor relations, ethics and compliance, financial management, fundraising strategies, volunteer management and more. To be eligible for the exam, applicants must have at least five years of full-time professional experience in fundraising or related activities within the past ten years.

The CFRE exam takes approximately three hours to complete and consists of 175 multiple-choice questions. The cost of taking the exam is $395 for members of CFRE International or $495 for non-members. After passing the exam, applicants must renew their certification every three years by completing continuing education credits or re-taking the exam.

2. Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP)

Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) is a professional certification program designed to recognize the knowledge and skills of those who work in the nonprofit sector. The CNP designation is granted by the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, a national alliance of colleges and universities dedicated to preparing students for careers in the nonprofit sector.

The CNP program requires applicants to demonstrate mastery of core competencies related to working in the nonprofit sector, including fundraising, grant writing, volunteer management, financial management, communications, marketing, and legal compliance. It also requires applicants to have at least two years of full-time experience working in a nonprofit organization.

To get certified as a CNP, applicants must complete an online application that includes a resume and references. After submitting their application materials, applicants must take an exam that tests their knowledge of the core competencies required for certification. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately three hours to complete.

The cost for taking the CNP exam is $150 USD per attempt. There is no time limit on how long it takes to become certified as a CNP; however, most people who successfully pass the exam receive their certification within 6-8 weeks after taking the exam.

3. Certified Fund Raising Manager (CFRM)

Certified Fund Raising Manager (CFRM) is a professional certification program designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated the knowledge and experience necessary to effectively manage fundraising operations. The CFRM credential is issued by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), an international organization that promotes ethical and effective fundraising.

To become certified, candidates must have at least three years of full-time fundraising experience and must pass a comprehensive exam covering topics such as donor relations, financial management, legal compliance, and strategic planning. Candidates must also demonstrate their commitment to continuing education in the field of fundraising.

The process of becoming a Certified Fund Raising Manager typically takes between six months and one year. To begin, applicants should contact AFP to obtain an application form and instructions on how to apply for the certification. Once completed, applicants will be required to submit supporting documents such as proof of employment history, transcripts from any relevant courses taken, and letters of recommendation from colleagues or supervisors.

The cost for obtaining the CFRM credential varies depending on whether you are a member or non-member of AFP. For members, the fee is $395 USD; for non-members it is $595 USD. Additionally, there may be additional fees associated with taking the exam or renewing your certification every three years.

4. Chartered Fund Raising Professional (CFReP)

Chartered Fundraising Professional (CFReP) is a professional designation that recognizes individuals who have achieved the highest level of excellence in fundraising and philanthropy. It is awarded by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), an international association of professional fundraisers. The CFReP designation is considered the gold standard for fundraising professionals and demonstrates a commitment to ethical fundraising practices, knowledge, and expertise.

It takes approximately one year to complete the requirements for the CFReP designation. To obtain this certification, applicants must meet certain educational requirements, pass an examination, and demonstrate experience in fundraising or philanthropy. Applicants must also adhere to AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.

The cost to apply for the CFReP designation varies depending on whether you are an AFP member or non-member. For members, it costs $395 USD; for non-members, it costs $495 USD.

5. Certified Grant Writing Professional (CGWP)

Certified Grant Writing Professional (CGWP) is a professional designation awarded by the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI). The CGWP designation is designed to recognize grant writing professionals who have demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in grant writing. To earn the CGWP, applicants must pass an exam that covers topics such as grant research, proposal writing, budgeting, and evaluation.

The CGWP exam takes two hours to complete and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. Applicants must score at least 70% on the exam in order to pass and earn the CGWP designation.

To register for the CGWP exam, applicants must submit an application form and pay a fee of $225 USD. Once their application has been approved, they will receive instructions on how to schedule their exam.

The cost of taking the CGWP exam is $225 USD. This fee includes access to study materials and resources, as well as one attempt at taking the exam. If you fail your first attempt at taking the exam, you can retake it for an additional fee of $125 USD.

6. Certified Fundraising Professional (CFP)

Certified Fundraising Professional (CFP) is a professional designation awarded by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). It is the highest level of certification available in the field of fundraising and philanthropy. The CFP credential recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel in their roles as fundraising professionals.

The CFP program consists of three components: an online course, a comprehensive examination, and a portfolio review. The online course provides an overview of core fundraising concepts, principles, and practices. The comprehensive exam tests applicants’ knowledge and understanding of these topics. Finally, the portfolio review assesses applicants’ experience in fundraising and philanthropy.

To become certified as a CFP, applicants must complete all three components within two years. Applicants must also meet certain educational requirements such as having a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience in fundraising or related fields.

The cost for the CFP program varies depending on your membership status with AFP. For non-members, it costs $1,000; for members it costs $750; and for student members it costs $500.

7. Master of Science in Philanthropy and Development (MSPD)

The Master of Science in Philanthropy and Development (MSPD) is a graduate-level degree program designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the field of philanthropy and development. It is offered by a variety of universities, both online and on campus.

The MSPD program typically takes two years to complete, depending on the institution. It generally consists of about 36 credit hours, which often includes courses in fundraising, grant writing, volunteer management, public relations, nonprofit management, finance, accounting and more. Most programs also include an internship or practicum experience.

Admission requirements for the MSPD program vary between institutions but typically include a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a GPA of 3.0 or higher; GRE scores; letters of recommendation; and a resume that demonstrates professional experience in the field of philanthropy and development.

Tuition costs vary depending on the institution offering the program but can range anywhere from $15,000 - $50,000 for the entire two-year program. Additional expenses may include books and materials as well as living expenses if attending an on-campus program. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify.

8. National Association of Charitable Gift Planners Certificate Program

The National Association of Charitable Gift Planners (CGP) Certificate Program is an educational program designed to help individuals become knowledgeable and effective charitable gift planners. The program provides a comprehensive overview of the field, including topics such as estate planning, tax law, fundraising, and philanthropic giving. It is designed for both those new to the field and experienced professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills.

The program consists of four courses: Introduction to Charitable Gift Planning; Advanced Charitable Gift Planning; Estate Planning for Charitable Giving; and Fundraising for Charitable Giving. Each course is self-paced, with estimated completion times ranging from three to six months depending on the student’s level of experience.

To get started in the CGP Certificate Program, students must first complete an application form and submit it along with a $50 nonrefundable application fee. Once accepted into the program, students will receive access to all four courses through the CGP Learning Center. Each course requires a separate fee of $125 per course or $450 for all four courses if purchased together.

Upon successful completion of all four courses, students will be awarded a certificate from the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners recognizing their achievement in becoming a certified charitable gift planner.

9. American Institute of Philanthropy Certification Program

The American Institute of Philanthropy Certification Program (AIPCP) is a comprehensive certification program designed to recognize and reward individuals who have demonstrated excellence in the field of philanthropy. It is the only certification program in the United States that focuses on philanthropic leadership, management, and practice. The AIPCP is administered by the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting philanthropic education, research, and practice.

The AIPCP consists of three levels: Level I, Level II, and Level III. To earn each level of certification, applicants must complete a series of courses and exams covering topics such as philanthropic management, grantmaking strategies, fundraising techniques, nonprofit law, ethics in philanthropy, and more. The program also includes an online portfolio review process to assess applicants’ experience in the field.

In order to become certified at any level through the AIPCP program, applicants must meet certain requirements. These include having at least three years of professional experience in the field of philanthropy or related areas; completion of all required coursework; passing all required exams; submitting a portfolio for review; and paying applicable fees. Depending on an individual’s prior experience and education level, it can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete all requirements for certification at any one level.

The cost for earning certification through this program varies depending on which level you are pursuing. For Level I certification, there is an application fee of $150 plus course fees ranging from $500-$900 per course depending on length and complexity. For Levels II and III certifications there is an additional $500 fee per level plus course fees ranging from $600-$1,000 per course depending on length and complexity.

Overall, the American Institute of Philanthropy Certification Program provides individuals with an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in the field while gaining recognition as a leader in philanthropy.

10. Association of Fundraising Professionals Certificate Programs

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Certificate Programs are professional development programs designed to help fundraising professionals increase their knowledge and skills. The programs range from introductory courses to advanced certifications, and include topics such as fundraising principles and practices, donor relations, grant writing, event planning, and more.

The AFP offers two certificate programs: the CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) program and the ACFRE (Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive) program. The CFRE is a comprehensive certification program that requires applicants to have at least five years of professional experience in fundraising or related fields. It consists of six courses covering the fundamentals of fundraising, including ethical principles, legal requirements, donor relations, research methods, financial management, and marketing strategies. To earn the CFRE designation, applicants must pass an exam administered by the AFP. The cost for the exam is $350 for members and $450 for non-members.

The ACFRE is a more advanced certification program designed for experienced fundraisers who have already earned their CFRE designation. It consists of four courses focusing on strategic planning, major gifts management, capital campaigns management, and leadership in philanthropy. Applicants must also submit a portfolio demonstrating their mastery of these areas before they can take the ACFRE exam. The cost for the exam is $450 for members and $550 for non-members.

In order to maintain their certifications, both CFREs and ACFREs must complete continuing education credits every three years to demonstrate their commitment to ongoing professional development in fundraising.

11. National Society of Fundraising Executives Certification Program

The National Society of Fundraising Executives (NSFRE) Certification Program is a professional development program that provides fundraising professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their field. The program consists of three levels: Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE), and Master Certified Fundraising Executive (MCFRE).

The CFRE certification is designed for those who have at least five years of experience in fundraising or related fields, such as nonprofit management or philanthropy. To obtain the certification, applicants must pass a written exam that covers topics such as fundraising principles, ethics, donor relations, and financial management. The exam takes approximately four hours to complete and costs $350.

The ACFRE certification requires applicants to have at least ten years of experience in fundraising or related fields, including two years of successful leadership in a senior-level position. In addition to passing the CFRE exam, applicants must also submit evidence of their leadership accomplishments and complete an online portfolio assessment. The portfolio assessment takes approximately four hours to complete and costs $450.

The MCFRE certification is the highest level of NSFRE certification available. Applicants must have at least fifteen years of experience in fundraising or related fields, including five years of successful leadership in a senior-level position. In addition to passing the CFRE and ACFRE exams, applicants must also submit evidence of their leadership accomplishments and complete an online portfolio assessment. The portfolio assessment takes approximately eight hours to complete and costs $550.

Overall, the entire NSFRE Certification Program can take up to eighteen hours to complete depending on which level you are pursuing and will cost up to $1350 total for all three levels combined.

Do You Really Need a Fundraising Director Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on your individual needs and goals. If you are looking to work in the field of fundraising, then obtaining a Fundraising Director Certificate could be beneficial for your career. It demonstrates that you have the knowledge and skills required to be successful in this role. However, if you already have experience in the field or feel confident in your abilities without additional credentials, then it may not be necessary for you to obtain a certificate.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if obtaining a Fundraising Director Certificate is worth the time and effort. You should consider the cost of the program, how much time and energy you are willing to commit, and what impact it will have on your career prospects in order to make an informed decision.

Related: Fundraising Director Resume Examples

FAQs About Fundraising Director Certifications

1. What is the Fundraising Director Certification?

Answer: The Fundraising Director Certification is an online program that provides professionals with the knowledge, skills and tools to become effective fundraising directors. Through this certification program, participants will learn how to develop a successful fundraising plan and understand the fundamentals of nonprofit fundraising.

2. Who should consider taking the Fundraising Director Certification?

Answer: Professionals who are looking to advance their career in fundraising or those interested in starting a career in fundraising should consider taking the Fundraising Director Certification. This certification is ideal for nonprofit development directors, executive directors, board members, and anyone else who wants to gain a better understanding of nonprofit fundraising strategies and techniques.

3. How long does it take to complete the Fundraising Director Certification?

Answer: The Fundraising Director Certification can be completed within 4-6 weeks depending on your schedule and commitment level.

4. What topics are covered in the Fundraising Director Certification?

Answer: Topics covered in this certification program include understanding donor trends, creating an effective case for support, developing relationships with donors, managing donations efficiently and effectively, setting up a system for tracking results, and more.

5. Is there a fee associated with taking the Fundraising Director Certification?

Answer: Yes, there is a fee associated with taking this certification course which covers all materials as well as access to online resources and support from instructors throughout the duration of the program.