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Russell Raker, Father of the ACFRE Program, Passes Away

January 4, 2017

Russ Raker

Russell Raker, ACFRE, former AFP board member who led the development and implementation of the Advanced Certified Fund Raising Credential (ACFRE) program, passed away on Dec. 21 at the age of 75.

Raker was associate vice president for the Office of Institutional Advancement at Nevada State College. His career in fundraising, nonprofit capacity building and leadership in higher education, health care and social services spanned 53 years. He led teams that raised more than $1 billion for various nonprofits.

Appointed by then-AFP chair Del Staecker, Raker led the Advanced Credential Task Force, which ultimately led to the creation of the ACFRE. In 1991 the task force completed the written examination component of the advanced credential program. The first ACFRE examinations were administered in 1992, and the first credentials were conferred in 1993 to 18 individuals: Ted D. Bayley; Mary Anne Chern; C. Neal Davis, Ph.D.; John P. Demoleas; Lona M. Farr, Ph.D.; Simone P. Joyaux; Zoltan A. Karpathy; Barbara R. Levy; David J. Madson; William M. Moran; J. Russell Raker III; Charlotte Rhodes; Del Staecker; Dennis Stefanacci; Dana R. Todsen; B. Jeanne Williams; Karla A. Williams; and Marjorie A. Winkler.

Raker was a member of AFP since 1968, and most recently became president of the Las Vegas Chapter. He served on the AFP Board from 1987-1994 and helped form both the Ohio, Miami Valley Chapter (now the Greater Dayton Region Chapter) and the Nebraska Chapter.

“Russ was an extraordinary man, a dear friend, and had an extraordinary commitment to the philosophy of philanthropy that we all would be well served to follow,” said Dennis Stefanacci, ACFRE, past chair of AFP. “It is truly a great loss for all of us who knew him, and particularly the profession many of us have devoted our lives to. He will be missed.”

Don Campbell, CFRE, another former chair of AFP, echoed those comments: “A more committed professional you could not find!  Not only did Russ help build NSFRE and AFP in the most important ways, he was a great client, and wonderful consultant for our firm, and a true friend.  I'm deeply saddened to lose him from our world.”

Career and Accolades

Raker spent a decade in Southern Nevada, developing a comprehensive fundraising program at Nevada State College. He led the college’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which netted more than $17 million in gifts and pledges to back the college’s facility expansion, scholarships and academic programs.

In 2008, Raker co-founded the Gift Planning Advisors, a collaborative partnership of six valley nonprofit organizations, working to enhance the educational opportunities available to them. In 2013, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Las Vegas Chapter of AFP.

In 1985, 1986, and again in 1987, he received the prestigious Charles W. L. Foreman Distinguished Performance Award from the Independent College Funds of America (ICFA) for the top sustained ICFA fundraising program in the country.  In addition to authoring and editing several books, he also served on the national boards of other nonprofit organizations, including: Family Service America (Wisc.); Family Foundation of North America (Wisc.); Red Cross of Ohio; Red Cross (D.C.); Dayton Ballet (Ohio); Omaha Ballet (Neb.); Amarillo Ballet of West Texas (Texas); Omaha Symphony (Neb.); the Women’s Foundation of Nebraska (Neb.); ICFA (N.Y.) and as Vice President/Programs of The Milton Murray Foundation (Colo.),where he led the Foundation to its new focus in grant making.

“Russ was hugely instrumental in the AFP community and had a huge impact on the profession,” said Jason Lee, interim president and CEO of AFP. “AFP was one of his primary personal passions, and our organization—and all of fundraising—is better because of his leadership and dedication.”

For his full obituary, click here.

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