Great CFRE Exam resources


It’s been a busy few weeks for me with traveling for work to a conference and a volunteer training. But I wanted to take a few moments to share a few of the most helpful resources I found in my quest to pass the CFRE exam.


Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (4th ed.) (2016) by Eugene R. Tempel, Timothy L. Seiler, and Dwight F. Burlingame was the first book I read and it was fantastic. It was detailed and it helped level my knowledge on every topic on fundraising. It was more philosophical than practice-based but I needed that for a number of topics. Because each chapter was written by different individuals, it was easy to read a few chapters, set the book down, and then come back to it later. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a general, up-to-date reference book that covers a variety of fundraising topics.

Fund Raising Basics (2009) by Barbara L. Ciconte and Jeanne Jacob was where I turned when I needed more information in specific areas. After I started taking practice exams, I had a better idea of where my knowledge gaps were. This book was full of practical information with good case studies and examples; and each chapter felt like a standalone essay. However, some of the information – especially the information around the internet and computers in a workplace – felt very outdated. This is a good supplementary resource but I wouldn’t make it the only book you read.

And now, for a book that is not on the list. Prospect Research for Fundraisers: The Essential Handbook (2013) by Jennifer J. Filla and Helen E. Brown was recommended by my company’s prospect researcher. She told me to review chapters 1, 4, & 6 and they were very helpful for getting my knowledge of research up to speed. Not only were these chapters fairly easy to read, it also helped me understand the philosophy behind selecting a database, the type of information that is necessary to capture in your database, and the different aspects that you need to take into account as a fundraiser when you’re screening someone.

Other resources

AFP Ready Reference guides were an unexpected find. These 30-ish page booklets are written in layman’s terms and were a nice supplement for a few of the topics I was struggling with. I would actually recommend their booklets on campaigns and board development over the chapters in the Fund Raising Basics book.

My colleague lent me a copy of the CFRE Exam Secrets Study Guide: CFRE Test Review for the Certified Fund Raising Executive Exam by Mometrix. Don’t waste your money on it or the flashcards. Many of the flashcards felt outdated; I happened to have access to my colleagues set so I pulled out the ones that covered the areas that I felt I needed to review more. That was effective because it allowed me to apply or at least talk through several of the concepts I was reading about. And I had my own notes taken from the books I read that I used to sort of review the updated knowledge.

Another colleague really recommended Quizlet. I tried with Quizlet but I couldn’t really figure out what were the good study sets and I felt many of the sets were pulled from the Mometrix book or other online CFRE practice test that were easily available with a quick Google search.

About a week before the exam, I was feeling very unprepared. All this reading was great but I needed a framework to apply the knowledge and the practice exams that I found online were only 5 questions which didn’t make me feel confident. The official CFRE Practice Test costs $60 for a 1 month subscription and I just wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost. My colleague took the test last year and she only had positive things to say about it. So, I tried it out. The questions got repetitive after a while but it helped me identify the areas of the exam that I really really needed to focus on and made me feel more comfortable.

Check back in a few weeks to learn more about my lessons learned after the test! If you missed the first post in this series, So you’re thinking about taking the CFRE exam?, read it here



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