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CFRE Guide By Christine Stevens

Friday, December 7, 2018   (1 Comments)
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On the morning of November 27, I walked into a testing center on the UH downtown campus. After providing my two forms of ID, getting fingerprinted and palm scanned, and handing over my handbag and coat for safekeeping, the test proctor walked me into a small adjacent room. “Good luck” she said as she closed the door and I settled into the four-hour exam that would determine if I really knew anything at all about the discipline of fundraising.




I started working toward this day in 2014, and it was certainly a rigorous process to qualify to sit for this exam. From tracking professional performance and practice, to working toward the 80 required education credits, MyCFRE was an invaluable tool that really kept me on track.


As I got closer to the day I could submit my application, I enrolled in a couple of training courses that not only provided the last few education credits I needed, but that were focused specifically on preparing to take this exam. I highly recommend them both.

The ALDE two day study course (7.75 CFRE credits) was an in-depth look at the six core knowledge areas of fundraising the exam tests. I took the course online but appreciated that it was a “live lecture” with a very active Q&A. Additionally, ALDE recorded the sessions and made the recordings available to everyone who attended. I listened to them all again the weekend before I sat for the exam which was very helpful!


I also attended a one-night Exam Prep offered by AFP Houston that really put me on the right path to wrap up my preparation. I met a good number of colleagues who were also preparing for the exam and many who had taken and passed the exam recently; their moral support was appreciated! The class helped me gain a deeper understanding of the format of the test and provided great advice for additional books and study materials to prepare more fully.




As I worked through the exam, and clicked through what felt like unending screens of questions, other test takers taking much shorter exams came and went. I was feeling increasingly uneasy about how I was performing. Pushing through it, my strategy was to answer every question and to flag the ones I wasn’t certain about for review at the end. When I finished answering all 200 questions, the timer at the top of the screen pleasantly surprised me with a little over an hour remaining.  I knew I had flagged A LOT to review.  


That hour went by quickly and when I finished reviewing all the questions I had flagged, I had used all but 10 minutes of the allotted time. While I thought there was a chance that I had passed, I cringed when I pressed the final ‘submit’ button.


A few seconds later, the proctor handed me the single sheet with my results and I read that sheet of paper seven or eight times to be sure.


I passed!  And, with a perfect score on the Ethics section. Super proud of that!




With extra appreciation for all of my colleagues who have achieved their designations, I am so thrilled to now count myself among them – it feels great and I am so glad I did it!! 

I’ve included below the study materials, texts, and how-to books that I used and felt helped me the most. If anyone has any questions about the process, these materials, or the exam itself, don’t hesitate to reach out. Happy to talk through my experiences if it help you on your journey to achieve your CFRE.  It is totally worth it.


Happy testing,



Christine Stevens, CFRE

Houston Grand Opera, Development Officer II, Individual Giving Team


I have been with HGO for a year and a half as a Development Officer II on the Individual Giving team. My work focuses primarily on cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding a portfolio of current donors, identifying and soliciting those in the wider donor base with the interest and capacity for a deeper HGO involvement, and bringing all the donors I engage with closer to the art.    




Study Materials:

  • CFRE Practice Exam: This online practice test was the #1 best tool in my preparation toolbox.  I signed up for 90-days and printed out every practice test and continued to study the correct responses up until the minute before entering the testing room. 





Thomas J. Moore says...
Posted Thursday, December 13, 2018
Congratulations to Christine on passing her CFRE and for sharing this insightful blog! Hope others will be motivated to follow her path. Tom Moore, CFRE

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