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The CFRE Refresher Course

The AFP CFRE Refresher Course offers development professionals an opportunity to review the main components of a complete fundraising program. It is an intensive program intended to provide an overview, organized around the domains of the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) exam, rather than on specific fundraising strategies. This course helps participants identify gaps in their knowledge by working through abbreviated case studies referred to as “caselets.” Participation in the course may assist individuals in learning or reviewing concepts covered on the CFRE exam as detailed in the Test Content Outline provided by CFRE International on its website. 

What the CFRE Refresher Course Is and Is Not

A “refresher” is, by definition, instruction that serves to reacquaint one with material previously studied or to bring one's knowledge or skills up to date.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition
© 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

The CFRE Refresher Course is designed to do exactly that. The course provides ample opportunity for applying previous knowledge to fundraising scenarios in an active, engaging learning environment. It is not a review for the CFRE Exam. No sample test questions will be available.

Rationale for the Approach to the Course:

The course approach is a variation of the flipped classroom and blended learning models.

As EDUCAUSE writes:

During class, learners can inquire about content, test their skills by applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or advisors, encouraging learners in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

In a traditional classroom, learners focus on capturing lectures and there is little time to reflect – much less digest and act – on what is being discussed. By devoting class time to application of concepts, instructors have a better opportunity to detect errors in thinking, particularly those that are widespread in a class setting.

Who should attend?

The course is intended for intermediate-level fundraising professionals who want a quick yet comprehensive overview of fundraising principles at a step above the fundamental level.  

What will participants learn?

Following active engagement during this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify personal strengths and weaknesses in domain content.
  • Assess personal level of readiness to take the CFRE examination.
  • Develop an effective personal study plan.
  • Apply fundraising skills and knowledge to real-life fundraising scenarios.

Brief Description of the Course

The AFP CFRE Refresher Course consists of an introductory chapter and six content chapters corresponding with the six CFRE test domains.  Each domain chapter opens with a list of the domain competencies appearing in the CFRE Test Content Outline. Key knowledge areas for each domain – also from the Test Content Outline – follow, each with space allowing the participant to reflect and make personal notes for how much s/he knows about each area and what needs further study.

After a brief review of key concepts by the facilitator, participants will discuss caselets that provide an opportunity to apply key knowledge areas to real-life situations. This “case process” is all about synthesizing and applying accumulated experience and knowledge – exactly what individuals will be asked to do on the CFRE exam.

For a full course outline, including learning objectives for each chapter, scroll down to the bottom of this page. 

CFRE Education Points

Full participation in the condensed 8-hour version of the AFP CFRE Refresher Course is applicable for 8 points of CFRE Credit in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification. Full participation in the 16-hour version of the course, with more time for interactive discussion, is applicable for 16 points of CFRE Credit in Category 1.B. 

How do I find a course and register?

The course is sponsored by AFP chapters and partner organizations in various locations around the U.S. and Canada. New classes are added regularly.  Check out an up-to-the-minute list of course dates and locations by clicking on the link below:

See the current CFRE Refresher Course Schedule 

Course scholarships

Many AFP chapters offer a small number of full or partial scholarships to their members to attend the CFRE Refresher Course and other educational offerings. However, AFP International does not directly offer scholarships for the CFRE Refresher Course. For more information about scholarships available in your area, contact the hosting chapter.

Hosting the CFRE Refresher Course

Your organization or chapter can contract with AFP to hold the CFRE Refresher Course in your area; for information, email: or

Study on your own

If you haven’t the time to attend the CFRE Refresher Course, you may want to purchase the AFP CFRE Refresher Course Participant Manual as a self-study guide.  To order the manual, visit the AFP Bookstore.

Important notice

AFP CFRE Refresher Course attendees receive the Participant Manual as part of their registration fee. If you purchase the manual prior to attending a CFRE Refresher Course session, you cannot deduct the price of the manual from the registration fee.

Course Outline

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Course                                                                                                        

Chapter 2: Domain 1 – Current and Prospective Donor Research                                              

Chapter 3: Domain 2 – Securing the Gift                                                                                                     

Application: Domains 1 and 2                                                                                                                      

• Small-group work on caselets
• Full-group discussion/Q&A regarding caselet outcomes       

Chapter 4: Domain 3 – Relationship Building                                                                                          

Chapter 5: Domain 4 – Volunteer Involvement                                                                                     

Application: Domains 3 and 4                                                                                                                        

• Small-group work on caselets
• Full-group discussion/Q&A regarding caselet outcomes           

Chapter 6: Domain 5 – Leadership and Management                                                                        

Chapter 7: Domain 6 – Ethics and Accountability                                                                                 

Application: Domains 5 and 6                                                                                                                        

• Small-group work on caselets
• Full-group discussion/Q&A regarding caselet outcomes       

Reflection, Questions, and Wrap-up


Learning Objectives for Each Chapter 

Chapter 1: Introduction

Participants will be able to:

  • cite the key elements of the CFRE examination
  • identify the steps to be taken in preparing for the CFRE examination.
  • describe the characteristics of an effective study plan.
  • develop an effective personal study plan.

Chapter 2: Domain 1 – Current and Prospective Donor Research

Participants will be able to:

  • explain the purpose of and case for use of research in fundraising.
  • describe key elements of a successful research operation.
  • apply the principles and practices of effective current/prospective donor research to real-life scenarios.

Chapter 3: Domain 2 – Securing the Gift

Participants will be able to:

  • the elements of a compelling case and development plan.
  • discuss options for marketing to donors and prospects.
  • describe an effective cultivation and solicitation process.
  • apply the principles and practices of effective gift procurement to real-life scenarios.

Chapter 4; Domain 3 – Relationship Building

Participants will be able to:

  • express the key characteristics and elements of a purposeful cultivation plan.
  • recognize the importance of effective communication in establishing and sustaining relationships with individuals and organizations.
  • apply the principles and practices of effective relationship-building concepts to real-life scenarios

Chapter 5: Domain 4 – Volunteer Involvement

Participants will be able to:

  • explain the characteristics and roles of effective fundraising volunteers.
  • differentiate roles, obligations, and expectations of fundraising staff and volunteers.
  • describe optimal orientation and training to help volunteers succeed.
  • apply the principles and practices of effective volunteer engagement to real-life scenarios.

Chapter 6: Domain 5 – Leadership and Management

Participants will be able to:

  • Explain the inter-relationship of strategic organizational and development planning.
  • Identify sources of information to use in evaluating the development plan.
  • Discuss essential areas of staff management.
  • Describe key components of working with consultants and other vendors.
  • Apply the principles and practices of effective leadership and management to real-life scenarios

Chapter 7: Domain 6 – Ethics, Accountability and Professionalism

Participants will be able to:

  • Explain the concepts of ethics, accountability, and donor rights in fundraising.
  • Describe the legal responsibilities of the board.
  • Discuss key accountability factors of most concern to primary stakeholders.
  • Apply the principles and practices of professional ethics and accountability to real-life scenarios.



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