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AFP Canada Leadership Post: Mapping Out a Path to Your Future

by Tania Little, CFRE, Vice Chair, Professional Advancement Division, AFP

Tania Little 200x232Many fundraisers in my peer set chanced upon the profession through volunteerism or learned “on the job” how to adapt previous skills acquired through other jobs. Whether choosing at a post-secondary level or coming into a second career; there are a myriad of education and training opportunities available to facilitate the development of highly effective and ethical professionals in the social profit sector. As an AFP member, you are part of a network of 30,000 professional fundraisers, ready to help you along the journey.

Education and training for the new fundraiser

AFP is opportunely placed within the sector to be especially aware of the competency needs of fundraisers, serving as the preeminent leader in fundraising training and advancement for more than 50 years. AFP Knowledge Areas and Curriculum Framework sets the stage for its wide breadth of curriculum across educational and training streams.

Between the Curriculum Framework and The AFP Professional Development Plan for Fundraisers, AFP identifies programs, products and services available to you to meet your learning needs. Opportunities to grow your knowledge and skills at your own pace include:

Beyond the AFP there are a number of post-secondary institutions, specialty area associations like CAGP, CASE and private businesses that offer a complement of subject matter including how to’ type programs, or more specifically master classes that focus on understanding both the theory and practice of a specific tactic area, for example major giving. The AFP Resource Center can help you identify these programs in your region.

Continued learning for the mid-level + advanced practitioner

For professionals who have acquired the knowledge and skills needed and worked in the field for five years or more, there is an additional opportunity they can consider pursuing.  The Certified FundRaising Executive (CFRE) offered by CFRE International. This credential is the professional fundraisers opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and practice through an application and exam process. The CFRE is globally recognized as the baseline measurement and is a great way to independently assess what you know what areas you can continue to develop 

For the more seasoned practitioner, there are a number of executive development and masters levels programs available at post-secondary institutions.  Additional programs are listed at’s resource list. Many of these institutions/programs provide you with CFRE continuing education points and also provide you with the required ethics/leadership/management development hours that can be used if you decide you want to pursue your advanced certified fundraising executive (ACFRE) credential.

AFP’s newest advanced practitioner offering is the International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising, which will be launched in March 2014 at the International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio, TX. This year long course will be taught at a Graduate Degree level as an advanced experiential learning experience. Participants will spend approximately 600 hours in individual and group study over the life of the program. 

Mapping out a path

Identifying where to start does not need to be a complicated issue for the new or second - career professional. As an AFP member, a benefit you can use is the AFP Online Knowledge Center to help guide your learning plan and what skill areas you want to grow.

Once you’ve got a plan in place, be sure to speak to your local chapter education chair or president for guidance on local offerings and resources, and use some of the resources in this article to identify where else you can go to continue your learning.

For more information about your career and professional advancement, visit

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