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Important Notice: Congress Puts Healthcare Fundraising in Jeopardy  

*UPDATE: Senate removes provision from its version of the bill!

A troubling provision in the House-passed economic stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) would prevent hospital foundations from contacting prior patients and asking for donations.

Last Friday, AFP sent letters to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader, urging them to oppose the provision.

“It is vital that nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare providers continue to access potential donors because healthcare institutions rely upon private donations to fulfill their charitable mission, continue and expand their programs, and advance the field of medicine,” wrote Paulette Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “In these challenging economic times, private philanthropy has never been more important for healthcare institutions.”

In response to feedback from AFP and others, the Senate removed this provision from its version of the bill today. This obviously is great news!

However, the provision remains in the House-passed version of the bill, so our work is not done.

We still must weigh in with Congress to ensure that the provision is stripped from the bill when the House and Senate meet in conference to reconcile the differences between their two bills.


Section 4406(b) of the House-passed version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R.1) would prevent hospital foundations from contacting prior patients for philanthropic purposes (as is currently allowed) through an amendment to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). By prohibiting nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare organizations from contacting these patients, this change likely will inhibit the fundraising activities of these organizations. 

If you or your organization would be affected by this provision, we urge you to contact your Member of Congress and two Senators immediately to ensure that the provision is stripped from the House-version of the bill when the Senate and House meet to reconcile the differences between their two bills.

Okay, what do I do now?

Detailed instructions are below:

 1.      Identify your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators.  Use this link and type in your zip code to determine your U.S. Representative: Use this link to determine your two U.S. Senators: U.S. Senators by State (links active in electronic version of this article).

2.      Call the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3121) and ask to speak to your House Member or Senator.

3.      Use the following talking points:

  • Say that you are calling from the Senator’s state or the Representative’s district. Please tell them your hometown.
  • Ask the Member of Congress to oppose the provision in the economic stimulus package that would prevent hospital foundations from contacting prior patients for philanthropic purposes. The provision is found in section 4406(b) of the House-passed version American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • Urge the Member of Congress to remove this provision when the House and Senate meet in conference to reconcile the differences between their two versions of the bill.
  • Explain that this policy change is in direct opposition to the intent of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it originally drafted HIPAA. At the time, there was much discussion about the role of fundraising, as well as significant input from a variety of parties. In the end, the HHS recognized that fundraising activities of nonprofit healthcare institutions are essential to the country’s healthcare system and, therefore, included fundraising in the definition of healthcare operations.
  • State that nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems received $8.35 billion from generous donors in 2007 according to the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy’s Report on Giving 2007. That same survey found that 83 percent of all donors were individuals, including prior patients. It is only logical that people who have been helped by these institutions would want to consider supporting them.
  • Finally, emphasize that your organization and many people in your state are counting on the Member to protect nonprofit healthcare organizations by opposing this provision. [Mention the potential impact on your organization and/or your surrounding community].

4.      Mail three letters, one each to your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators.

5.      Cut and paste the sample letter below into your word processing software and personalize it with your own information (places where you can include your personal information are indicated in bold in the sample letter below):

a.  the Representative’s or Senator’s name and salutation
b.  your name and address
c.  a line or two about the impact the provision would have upon your organization.
d.  any other information you would like to add about your organization and its impact upon the community.

Sample Letter


For U.S. Representative, use:

Dear Representative LAST NAME:
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

For U.S. Senators, use:

Dear Senator LAST NAME:
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C.  20510

As a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and a constituent, I urge you to oppose a troubling provision in House-passed version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) that would prevent nonprofit healthcare institutions from raising the critical funds that sustain their charitable missions and programs.  It is imperative that this provision is removed when the House and Senate meet in conference.

AFP represents more than 30,000 individuals who are responsible for raising money ethically and effectively for a wide variety of charities—from large multi-national institutions to small grassroots organizations—engaged in countless missions and causes.  AFP members are required annually to sign our Code of Ethical Principles and Standards, the only enforced code of fundraising ethics in North America. 

Section 4406(b) of the House-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would prevent hospital foundations from contacting prior patients for philanthropic purposes, something that currently is allowed by law.  This language would amend the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to deny nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare providers access to names and addresses of patients in their own institutions. This change would dramatically affect my organization.

Nonprofit hospitals and healthcare systems received $8.35 billion from generous donors in 2008 according to the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy’s Report on Giving 2007.  That same survey found that 83 percent of all donors were individuals, including prior patients.  It is only logical that people who have been helped by these institutions would want to consider supporting them.  Prohibiting nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare organizations from contacting prior patients for philanthropic purposes would put these funds in jeopardy.  [Mention the potential impact on your organization and/or your community].

The very purpose of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is to spur economic prosperity during these challenging economic times, yet passing this provision would actually impair the work of nonprofit hospitals and other healthcare organizations and weaken their ability to raise much-needed funds for their charitable missions.

For these reasons and for the sake of our nonprofit healthcare organizations, I strongly urge you to oppose this provision and remove it when the House and Senate meet in conference.



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Donor Recognition: Thinking Lika a Donor  

The value of recognizing your donors goes far beyond showing appreciation for a gift. Recognition can motivate donors to be strong and lasting supporters of your organization.

“Donors will tell you that they don’t want recognition for their gift, but often that is what they think that they are supposed to say—that they gave without wanting something in return,” says Janet Hedrick, CFRE, senior associate at Bentz Whaley Flessner in Arlington, Va. “But people look for their name in print and on wall displays. They appreciate recognition that is appropriate.” Appropriate recognition, Hedrick explains, may mean holding a simple reception with a donor’s family and friends, rather than making a highly publicized announcement.

It’s a matter of seeing recognition through the eyes of the donor. If you recognize everyone for everything then it loses its meaning altogether, Hedrick says. “Recognition should be prestigious, awarded to a limited number of people. It motivates people to give more and become part of a special group.”

Hedrick, who is the author of a new book from the AFP Fund Development Series, Effective Donor Relations, believes an important function of recognition is that it motivates people to give in the first place, and then acts as an incentive to continue support year to year. But, she says, recognition that is not well thought out could actually act as a “ceiling” for a donor’s giving level.

The Right Incentive

“I’ve heard of organizations offering ‘lifetime membership’ to donors who give $10,000. That will motivate someone to give at that level, but what if they are capable of giving much more? And what is their motivation to give in the future?”  It is critical to think through the structure of giving clubs and understand how donors see the recognition levels, Hedrick says.

A well-planned recognition program motivates donors to give more by incorporating the recognition from the beginning—such as showing an illustration of the donor wall or other display before it has been created. This allows donors to see how they can leave their mark. Likewise, a plaque that contains placeholders for giving in future years often motivates donors to give every year. After all, they don’t want to show a gap in their support. “I’ve heard of donors actually calling and asking for the year tag. It’s important to them to show continuity,” Hedrick explains.

She has also had a donor ask her why his name is not up on the wall display. “I gave the same amount they did,” he told her, “so why is my name not with theirs?” This shows the difference between how a fundraiser sees recognition and how a donor sees it, Hedrick says. “Donors don’t always distinguish between different fundraising campaigns, such as annual or capital; they don’t divide up gifts the same way we do.” Recognizing cumulative giving over the course of a year, rather than recognizing annual or capital giving, may be more appropriate from the donor’s perspective, she says.

Donors are definitely paying attention to the way they stack up to their peers. The good side of this, of course, is that donors will often ask up front, “How much do I have to give to have my name here.” Above all, recognition should never be an afterthought, Hedrick says. Instead of simply being a reward or a polite exercise, it becomes a motivator—an active part of good donor cultivation.

Register today for Janet Hedrick’s upcoming AFP Web/Audioconference, “Introducing ‘Donor Touchpoint Management’ – A Marketing Approach to Donor Relations” happening Feb. 26. To register go to and click on Education and Career Development. Follow the link to AFP Web/Audioconferences.

The book Effective Donor Relations, by Janet Hedrick, is now available in the AFP Bookstore, and click on Marketplace and AFP Bookstore.

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Acknowledgement: Making Donors Proud of Their Gifts 

By Kim Strydonck, CFRE

Donor recognition needs to be sincere. I prefer to think of it as “stewardship” rather than “recognition.” The whole point is to build a relationship that makes the donor feel proud of giving to your cause. We as professionals should feel good about building this relationship.

I feel that donor recognition should not be “something separate.” It should be an integral part of all we do. The entire process of donor identification, research, cultivation, solicitation and recognition should be done from a stewardship perspective. It’s about being donor-centered. For example, when you start getting to know a donor, show interest in the donor’s story (his or her background and interests) as well as providing information about your charity. This shows the person that you care, not to mention that the information you find out might help identify him or her as a prospective donor for another project or higher level giving. Showing interest in the donor is part of the recognition/stewardship philosophy. It’s about treating the donor like a person and a friend, rather than simply a “donor.”

I’m a fan of Penelope Burk’s book, Thanks!: A Guide to Donor-Centred Fundraising. I agree that the most important way you can recognize donors is by confirming that their gift has been set to work as they intended, and by providing information (measurable and qualitative) about how it is making a difference. Magnets, certificates, address labels and all the rest might have a place from time to time but, in my experience, donors most appreciate information about how we have used their donations. Other recognition that I’ve found to be most appreciated is in keeping with the idea of sharing information:

  • A newsletter with articles and photos showing donor dollars at work
  • A donor recognition event with a behind-the-scenes tour, or with the participation of beneficiaries (scholarship/bursary students, etc)
  • A thank-you letter or card from the beneficiary (for example a student, or someone who had the chance to participate in a program because of a donor’s generosity)
  • A photo showing the result of the donor’s gift
  • A newspaper article or research paper with a note saying, “This project happened because of your gift.”

What should you include in a thank-you letter? I’ve seen some letters that are just a few lines and simply say, “Thank you for your gift, it is appreciated. Here is your tax receipt.” I’ve seen other thank-you letters that are longer and that provide specific information about how the gift will be used, focusing on the project or program in which the donor is interested. In my experience, donors prefer the latter. I’ve seen charities receive donations because of such thank-you letters; in some cases, significant gifts. Other points to include in letters are answers to donors’ questions or a mention of something they have previously shared with you. This shows that you are paying attention and are interested in who they are, not just what they contribute.

While a policy with standard recognition for each donor level is important, consider allowing some flexibility to ensure that recognition is appropriate to the nature of the donor and his or her gift, in the same way as you would with family or friends who give you a gift. If your mother and your mother-law both give you a holiday gift, you might think of phoning both to say thank you. However if you know that one of them really likes getting greeting cards, then you might phone one of them and send a thank you card to the other. In other words, keep it donor-centered, while still operating within a logical and achievable structure.

Gifts on Occasion

There are definitely times when a more tangible gift might be sent to a donor.  Some donors really appreciate this. In this case, I suggest ensuring that it is something usable, interesting and that it has a link to your charitable mission. Perhaps a book written by a researcher at your charity; a video after a building goes up or when renovations are done; a lapel pin can also be nice. By being donor-centered and getting to know your donors, you will know which ones like such gifts once in a while. But even then, I suggest not making a habit of always sending a gift.

You don’t always need to (and shouldn’t) always send donors a gift in return for donations. Donors give out of passion for the cause, not in order to get something back. But you should always say a sincere “thank you” and provide information about how their gift makes a difference.

Kim Strydonck, CFRE, is coordinator of philanthropy at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, which includes the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

Penelope Burk’s book, Donor Centered Fundraising, is available in the AFP Bookstore ( and click on AFP Marketplace and Bookstore).

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Freshly Baked Cookies and Other Ways to Say 'Thank You'  

It’s the thought that counts, as they say. But if you want to show donors your gratitude in a memorable way, your recognition should be creative, unique, even personal. Here are some recognition ideas that go beyond the ordinary.

“There are lots of ways to recognize donors, and it is very important to be creative,” says Jill Pranger, ACFRE, president of Pranger Philanthropic in Webster, N.Y. “When I’m working with organizations or a group of fundraisers I often ask, ‘How many of you like chocolate chip cookies? What would you think about cookies for your $500-level donors this year?’”

After the puzzled looks and chuckles, Pranger explains to her audience the value of giving donors something they like, something that reflects your organization and something that is meaningful. For a botanical garden or other nature or environmental organization, a small succulent plant could be a wonderful gift, Pranger says. “What about a simple gift certificate to Starbucks? Recognition does not always have to be public and it doesn’t always have to mean a person’s name is put in lights.”

For major donors, Pranger urges fundraisers to be thinking of suitable recognition even before the “ask.” Is the donor active as a volunteer in the organization? Perhaps she would be a good candidate for a service award, with their gift being one of several reasons why the honor is bestowed.

Outside-the-Box Donor Appreciation

In a recent post to the AFP Open Forum, an email group where members post questions and provide feedback on fundraising topics, a member asked about a meaningful but inexpensive premium to include in thank-you letters to donors. The fundraiser, who works for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, was offered the following advice from Jared B. Hughes, principal of Bellwether Fundraising in Takoma Park, Md.

Hughes writes, “How about you send them a beautifully written thank you letter and enclose a shoelace from the guardsmen and guards-women whom the auxiliary serves with a pull quote from them that tells the donor what their gift means to them and to their fellow service members?

“You will have collected the old shoelaces from service members (so they will be free) or maybe you can find a supplier that can give you a good deal on new ones. In the letter, explain that the Auxiliary is able to do so many worthwhile and important things on a ‘shoestring budget.’  Ask the donor to think of the Coast Guard and the Auxiliary's important work every time they tie their shoes, ‘remembering the critical services you were able to provide as a result of your gift.’

A Simple Phone Call

Thomas Wilson, vice president of Campbell & Company in Portland, Oregon, and author of Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners, explains in his book that making calls to large-gift donors can be a fun and worthwhile exercise for board members who are apprehensive about asking for money. These thank-you calls involve simply having a conversation with the donor without asking for money. It is also a great way to gather information about the donor, Wilson writes. He lists the following sample questions that a board member could use in making the thank-you call:

  • 1. I notice you have been giving since 1995; what got you started?
  • 2. This is a wonderful gift; what motivates you to give to us each year?
  • 3. I noticed that you designate your gift to scholarships. Why are they important to you?
  • 4. I understand this is your first gift to our organization. What prompted you to make this gift?

Wilson incorporates this system of volunteer thank-you calls into a larger program of letters, phone calls and recognition opportunities he calls the “a thank-you system” that he describes in more detail in his book.

The moral of the story? Say thank you with something appropriate and unique to your organization. Meaningful, personal tokens of gratitude will often stick with donors long after other free premiums have run their course.

As for the cookies, at least one organization is taking this home-baked approach. At Carleton University, Rowena Griffiths, director of personal and planned giving, began in August baking and freezing cookies to send to her top-tier donors. This year she sent out 200 boxes of cookies and baked 4,000 cookies total. “It’s a labor of love,” she says. But, she gets very warm response for the effort. She raised more than $70,000 this year just in response to these hand-baked tokens of gratitude. No one, she says, wants to be off of the cookie list!

Jill Pranger, ACFRE, will present a session titled, “Annual Giving—How to Do It Well ... Over and Over and Over Again” at AFP’s International Conference on Fundraising, happening March 29-April 1 in New Orleans. Discounted registration for conference is available until Feb. 20.

Thomas Wilson’s book, Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners, is available in the AFP Bookstore ( and click on AFP Marketplace and Bookstore).

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Where Donor Recognition Meets Brand Recognition  


Donor recognition designers and manufacturers say that, especially in this economy, donor walls and gifts need to do more than say “thank you.”

“Now more than ever it is important to say ‘thank you’ with a quality product that also allows the donor to advertise for you,” says Stuart Aaronson, owner of Stuart Manufacturing LLC in Central Falls, R.I. He explains that when you give a donor a gift you can’t afford to have it go into a desk drawer. “I’m being asked for things that are more visible and of higher quality, with the idea that the donor will be proud to display the item in his or her office, or wear the lapel pin, and then answer the all-important question from friends and colleagues, ‘Where did you get that?’”

“This is an opportunity for donors to ‘sell’ their commitment to others,” Aaronson explains. “The number one question that a charity should ask me is ‘What can we get that our donors will be proud to show other people?’”

Good donor recognition, then, goes beyond recognizing the person who made the gift, but to raising recognition of the organization that he or she supported. “It’s about staying power and maximizing the product,” Aaronson says.

How can charities afford recognition items that are truly memorable? Aaronson’s advice is to consider giving fewer items, but having these items be of higher quality. He says you can also cut costs by using the same basic design in each item, rather than paying separate design costs for each level of recognition item you use—be it a sculpture, plaque, pin or paperweight. By working with your manufacturer and designer, asking questions and seeking advice, Aaronson says you can save a lot of money and end up with a product that is not only better quality, but more suited to the occasion.

Telling the Story

“People want recognition that fits them,” says Karen Singer of Karen Singer Tileworks Inc. in Philadelphia. “People give because they really care what you as a charity are about. There is always a story to be told. What I try to do is capture the character of the organization so it connects with why people are giving.”

“It’s a win-win-win,” Singer says, because the display is real artwork that draws interest from viewers, allows the organization to tell its story and shows the donors’ lasting support. It creates excitement and buy-in for the campaign itself. The trick, she says, is to make an image that people relate to personally.

“If you are going to create a large wall installation you might as well be creative about what you put up,” she says. “Think about how you can present the story. It should draw people in, connect them with your organization and paint a richer picture of the long-term progress of your mission. I’m aiming to make something that lasts longer than a charity’s logo—which can change through the years. I try to create something that hits upon the core of what good works the charity carries out and the donor makes possible.”

“I consider myself part of their team,” Singer says, referring to her clients. “In the end, if people feel thanked appropriately, it helps build a deeper relationship between donor and charity. I enjoy seeing that happen.”

Feeling the Pinch

Finally, is it wise to cut back on donor recognition in the face of shrinking budgets? Bob Lee at Tempo Framing Systems in Pickering, Ontario, says that as with advertising, charities often cut back on recognition when budgets tighten. This is unfortunate, he says, because in these times it is all the more important to get your name out there. “In bad times you really should be doing even more recognition and promotion. After all, these are the people who have supported you in the past will continue to do so.”

The companies and AFP business partners named above are only a few of the 190 firms that will be present at the Fundraising Marketplace of the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in New Orleans this spring (March 29-April 1).

These companies are in the business of making your fundraising more successful, from prospect management and advice on your development plan, to the plaques donors proudly display. View and search the full list of exhibitors on the conference website, Exposition-only passes are available for each of the three full days of conference.

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National Philanthropy Day Legislation Introduced in Canada  

Sen. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein (Liberal, Metro Toronto) recently reintroduced legislation that would create the first permanent government-recognized National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) in the world.

NPD acknowledges the entire spectrum of support provided by the voluntary sector and recognizes the profound impact that philanthropy has on the fabric of society. On average, 50,000 people attend the more than 125 NPD events and celebrations that take place across North America every year. In Canada, NPD events are held in every province and annually involve thousands of people on Nov. 15.

Last year, the Senate passed the previous version of the bill and the House of Commons was poised to pass it as well. Unfortunately, the House was unable to take action prior to the election, and the bill died.

AFP will start a new campaign to encourage passage of the bill this year and will contact members for their assistance in the near future.

During National Philanthropy Day and throughout the month of November, Canadian AFP chapters honor exemplary local philanthropists, volunteer fundraisers, corporations, foundations, media outlets, children and young adults, and fundraisers at every level for their outstanding work in and contributions to the community. They also use this special occasion as a chance to educate the public about the importance of informed charitable giving and meaningful volunteerism.

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Miss New Orleans, Miss a Lot!  

The core benefit of AFP’s International Conference on Fundraising is the extensive series of sessions presented by many of the best fundraising practitioners in the world. Many of these presentations are geared to help you address skills and trends affecting fundraising in these difficult economic times.

You won’t find this breadth of topics and depth of knowledge at one event, for one low rate, anywhere else that at AFP’s annual international conference. Invest in yourself and invest in your organization, and get the tools you need to overcome any challenge!

Described below is just a sample of the more than 145 presentations taking place at conference. Visit the conference website at

Annual Giving

AG2: Advanced Annual Giving Techniques: Taking Your Program to the Next Level
Learn how best to use prospect screening tools, how to maximize renewals and most cost-effectively acquire new donors (Monday, March 30, 1:15-2:30 p.m.)

Capital Campaigns

CC3: Capital Campaign Public Relations Plans: A Blueprint for Campaign Success
See how a strategically designed marketing and communications plan can motivate your constituents and raise the public image of your organization (Monday, March 30, 2:45-4 p.m.)


PG1: Research Unveiled: What Every Fundraiser Needs to Know about Bequest Giving
Presenters will reveal the latest insights into bequest giving behavior resulting from three new studies. Learn how the recession will impact bequest giving, who is likely to make bequest gifts, the differences between men and women when it comes to bequest giving, and how to motivate donors (Monday, March 30, 1:15-2:30 p.m.)

Donor Relations

DN1: How Donors Will Give in a Turbulent Economy
This session highlights the results of a new national research study conducted in January 2009 with thousands of American donors. The study explored how donors' attitudes towards philanthropy are changing and whether those changes are motivated by the economic downturn or by other factors (Monday, March 30, 8-9:15 a.m.)

Distinguished Speaker

D9: Economic Empowerment in the Age of Obama
Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans, will discuss the new role of philanthropy as a partner in closing the economic divide (Tuesday, March 31, 3 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.)


MKT5: Smart Marketing for Nonprofits
Learn how to build organization-wide commitment to a comprehensive marketing plan to increase awareness and revenue (Tuesday, March 31, 8-9:15 a.m.) 


ACFRE 4: A Presentation and Dialogue: Is the Nonprofit Sector on the Right Track?
The nonprofit sector faces many challenges in an environment of global economic crisis, decreasing public trust, and heightened policymaker interest in accountability and disclosure. This ACFRE Presents session will explore how the sector should respond to these challenges and what nonprofit organizations should do to promote active governance, a quality workforce, adequate performance measurement and an ethic of social responsibility (Tuesday, March 31, 1:30-2:45 p.m.)

Register today to attend AFP’s International Conference on Fundraising in New Orleans. Go to Receive a discounted rate until Feb. 20. The AFP conference website features a complete, searchable online listing of presentations. See you at conference!

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AFP Now Accepting Proposals to Speak at 2010 Conference

AFP is now accepting proposals to speak at the International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore on April 11-14, 2010. The online proposal form is now available in the Speaker Service Center ( The deadline to submit proposals is Friday, April 24.

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Take the CFRE Review Course at Conference

Have you considered earning your Certified Fund Raising Executive credential? Sign up for the conference and get the tools you need in New Orleans at the International Conference on Fundraising. While there, you can take the CFRE Review Course to prepare you for the CFRE Exam. To register for the CFRE Review Course go to the conference website ( and click on Education. Follow the link titled CFRE Review Course.

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