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Cessna, Watts Earns Highest Professional Fundraising Credential from AFP

February 11, 2015

AFP has awarded its highest professional certification, the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE), to Ann Charles Watts, of Dayton, Ohio, and Cathy Cessna of Wilmington, Del.

Available only to senior-level fundraisers who have worked in the profession for 10 or more years, the ACFRE is a distinguished achievement earned by only 104 professionals since the inception of the program in 1992. Cessna and Watts will be honored for their achievement during AFP’s Leadership Academy in October.

Cessna is currently the director of business, program, and fund development at Ingleside Homes, Inc. in Wilmington, Del., and has served for over 25 years as a key decision maker in leadership roles for both the public and private sector. Her experience includes software development and sales, marketing, advertising, public and government relations, development, television production, network management and fundraising.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in Dentistry and Public Health from the University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, and a Masters in Public Administration. She received her CFRE credentials in 2003.

“I was inspired to achieve my ACFRE credentials by my 21 year old son, Max,” says Cessna. “He lost his only brother, Andrew, to acute lymphatic leukemia (T-cell) during his junior year at college in February 2012. Instead of taking a semester off, Max not only committed himself to earning a double major, he graduated on time. At graduation, he stated, ‘One degree is for me; the other is for Andrew.’ Such a son deserves such a mother. Following challenging or devastating life events, it is difficult to imagine the next step, the next day, let alone conquering the next professional hurdle. If we allow ourselves to be inspired by those around us, and draw from their strength, we can accomplish more, and achieve much greater results.”

Watts serves Habitat for Humanity International, training and advising affiliates nationwide, and has provided planning and development services to numerous local and statewide organizations. Previously, Watts served as executive director of two Habitat affiliates and was founding chair of Habitat for Humanity of Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in political science from Ohio University and is Harvard-educated in strategic nonprofit management.

Watts expressed her gratitude to AFP for the honor, saying her commitment to philanthropy is stronger than ever. “As donors and volunteers, we partner with the organizations we trust, to do the things we can’t do alone: improve quality of life, nourish the human spirit through art, and lift up the next generation,” she said. “With unity of purpose and a willingness to explore new and better ways of doing good work, we make the once-impossible, attainable, transforming our communities, our nation, and the world.”

The ACFRE program is the most rigorous certification process available to professional fundraisers.  The process includes a comprehensive application, detailing achievements in practice, education, publishing, teaching, and service to the profession; a written examination that measures a candidate’s knowledge of fundraising as well as the philosophical, ethical, and social aspects of philanthropy; a portfolio representing the candidate’s body of professional work; and an oral peer review in which the candidate must articulate a mastery of advanced-level knowledge in fundraising management, leadership, and ethics.

For more information about earning your ACFRE, click here

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