How useful are individual certifications for fundraisers? (2/2013)

In the US they put the CFRE on the name card in Switzerland the CAS. Now the German Fundraising Association (DFRV) is on the way of implementing a similar certificate according to the guidelines of the European Fundraising Association (EFA).

We know certification from our regular car check or from our work place where auditors certify our bookkeeping. In all cases a certificate proves that something – a car, the bookkeeping – complies with certain defined standards.

Such is the idea of a personal certification of individual fundraisers. At the DFRV a certificate can be issued after proven practical experience in a variety of fields and proven regular attendance of workshops.

Such a certificate is useful for all fundraisers who enjoyed no formal fundraising education, but successfully DID fundraising for years. They gain a “title” for their business card. And by the way, the certificate makes more fundraisers attend trainings and workshops, thus potentially enhancing the overall quality of the fundraising profession.

So, does an individual certificate make sense? If you measure something you always have to ask two questions: Do I measure what I want to measure? And how accurate do I measure what I measure?

The certificate intends to measure the quality of fundraisers. That’s what it does. It measures practical experience and the regular attendance of workshops. It measures whether a fundraiser has a minimum qualification for the job.

Then, how accurate is the measurement? It relies on very few information from the applicants, some work samples and a short interview, and in return it provides very general information about the certificate holders. In contrast to a master certificate you have no grade to differentiate the best from the poor.

The question to decide is whether this extra information is worth the effort. I tend to say no, because we have already sufficient sources of information about the quality of fundraisers (CV, past amount of donations solicited, fundraising courses), but I admit that others might say yes.