Education and Training Requirements

High School

To pursue a career in fund-raising, you should follow a college preparatory curriculum. English, creative writing, speech, mathematics, business, and history classes are recommended, as well as a foreign language, bookkeeping, and computer training. Extracurricular activities such as student council and community outreach programs can help you cultivate important leadership qualities and give you a taste of what fund-raising work requires.

Postsecondary Training

Only a small number of colleges offer degrees or certificates in fund-raising. However, colleges are increasingly offering courses in the broader field of philanthropy. Most fund-raisers have earned a university degree. A broad liberal arts background, with special attention to the social sciences, is a great benefit to fund-raisers because of the nature of most fund-raising work. Specialized degrees that could benefit fund-raisers include communications, psychology, sociology, public relations, business administration, education, and journalism. This type of education will give fund-raisers insight into the concerns and efforts of most nonprofit organizations and how to bring their worthwhile efforts to the public's attention. Courses in economics, accounting, and mathematics are also very useful.


Colleges and universities offer certificates in fundraising and related areas. For example, the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers a Fundraising Certificate Series that consists of 13 individual programs, each covering a specific aspect of the fundraising field. The programs include: 

  • Annual Strategies
  • Asking for Major Gifts
  • Budgeting for your Fundraising Program
  • Donor Motivation
  • Grant Writing Essentials
  • How to Write a Development Plan and Manage a Development Office
  • Laying the Foundation for Fund Development
  • Measuring Social Impact
  • Nonprofit Messaging that Drives Giving
  • Nonprofit Prospect Management & Research Techniques
  • Transformational Nonprofit Leadership
  • Planned Giving and Capital Campaigns
  • Researching, Cultivating and Appreciating Foundations & Corporate

Other Education or Training

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) offers a Fundamentals of Fundraising Course that contains the following modules: Overview of Fundraising, Developing an Integrated Fundraising Program, Marketing for Ongoing Success, Building & Sustaining Relationships, Securing the Gift, Partners in Fundraising, and Management & Accountability. The association also provides other continuing education opportunities, including a Leadership Academy. Contact the AFP for more information. Grant writing workshops are also especially helpful.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

CFRE International offers the certified fund raising executive (CFRE) designation to professionals who meet educational and experience requirements, pass a written examination, and pledge to uphold a code of ethics. This voluntary certification must be renewed every three years. To learn more about how to apply for the CFRE exam, visit https://www.cfre.org/certification. The Association of Fundraising Professionals offers the advanced certified fundraising executive credential. Learn more at http://www.acfre.org/what-is-the-acfre.html. No licensing is required for fund-raiders. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships, co-ops, and part-time jobs with a fund-raising consulting firm or an organization that requires the services of fund-raisers.

Because fund-raisers need to be able to talk and work with all kinds of people, you will need to be outgoing and friendly. This job also requires imagination, versatility, and resourcefulness on the fund-raiser's part. Fund-raisers also must have strong people skills, especially communications, because their personal contact with donors, board members, community groups, local leaders, and members of the press may be an important factor in the success of any revenue appeal.

Leadership is another an important quality, because you need to gain the respect of volunteers and inspire them to do their best. Their enthusiasm for a campaign can be a major factor in other people's commitment to the cause.