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Fundraising in Canada: What a Difference Certification Makes

September 27, 2011

(September 27, 2011) While you’ve probably seen the letters CFRE or ACFRE following a colleague’s name, you might be less familiar with the benefits they bring. Those four or five letters give fundraisers greater credibility, professional opportunities and stronger skills and knowledge, and display commitment to the profession.

There are approximately 714 Canadians who currently hold the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation as of the time this article was published. AFP also has its own certification credential called the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE) that builds on the skills and qualifications of the CFRE in a rigorous multi-part process ending with lifetime certification. The ACFRE is a distinguished achievement earned by only 95 professionals since the inception of the program in 1992.

Practical Benefits

AFP research shows that possession of the CFRE designation correlates positively with salary among Canadians. As reported in AFP’s 2011 Compensation and Benefits Study, CFREs reported average salaries are more than $26,000 higher than the average for respondents with no certification.

Among those who have the CFRE designation only, their average salary in 2010 was C$98,853, significantly greater than those with no certification (C$72,476). That compares to a mean (average) salary for all Canadian respondents of C$78,388 (Canadian dollars), and a median (middle) value for all Canadian respondents being C$70,350.

Getting certified gives you a professional boost, as shown here from CFRE International’s website.

  1. Certification can improve career opportunities and advancement. CFRE certification can give you the "edge" when being considered for a promotion or other career opportunities. CFRE certification clearly identifies you as an employee who has demonstrated mastery of fundraising principles and techniques based on accepted best practices.
  2. Certification prepares you for greater on-the-job responsibilities. CFRE certification is a clear indicator of your willingness to invest in your own professional development. Certified professionals are aware of the constantly changing environment around their profession and possess the desire to anticipate and respond to change.
  3. Certification improves skills and knowledge. Typically, achieving CFRE certification requires training, study and "keeping up" with changes. CFRE certification showcases your individual mastery by confirming proficiency and knowledge in the field. CFRE certification also requires recertification every three years, proving you stay ahead of the curve in fundraising.

“Attaining CFRE certification is an important career milestone for practitioners and is a mark of professionalism and commitment to the profession of fundraising,” said Sharilyn Hale, M.A., CFRE, principal, Watermark Philanthropic Advising in Toronto, chair of CFRE International and an AFP member. “The CFRE shows you and others that you grasp the fundamental knowledge of the profession. And, CFRE certification is voluntary, which distinguishes your personal commitment to your chosen field.”

A Step Above

Earning the CFRE or AFCFRE means a lot for your career, but it also means a lot for the profession as well.

“Certification is how we show the public that we are serious about ethical fundraising—that we are credible, and we are working in a field driven by established principles, ethics and best practices – all valued by employers, our donors and the public,” explains Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of AFP.

To learn more about CFRE International and to view a list of Canadians currently holding the CFRE designation, you can go to or download their 2010 annual report directly at this link.

AFP offers several opportunities throughout the year to earn credits toward earning the CFRE and ACFRE designations. To learn more, go to and click on Professional Development.

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