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Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) Exam

What is CFRE certification? The CFRE credential recognizes experienced fundraising professionals aspiring to the highest standards of ethics, competence, and service to the philanthropic sector. The CFRE certification was first awarded in 1981 and is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which guarantees that the CFRE certification follows best practices in credentialing.

AFP-RI encourages fundraising professionals to pursue this prestigious certification.  For more information on the CFRE please go to the CFRE website.

If you are interested in connecting with other fundraising professionals who have taken or are planning on taking the CFRE exam, please email

Full List of RI CFREs (Certified Fund Raising Executives)

Michele R. Berard     
Erica M. Bryson        
Kelley Coen   
Lisa D. Desbiens      
Erica L. Donnelly      
Jack Dresser 
Kimberly C. Dumpson         
Evan H. Gallivan       
Gayle Gifford, ACFRE
Lauren Goldenberg 
Joanne E. Gregory    
Louise Jakobson      
Mary B. Kozik 
Tina Louise Langill 
Samuel Lawrence    
Thomas Lee Lawson, Jr.     
Brianne McNamara 
Edward Gregory McPherson IV    
Jessica L. Null           
Pamela A. Pantos     
Christine M. Pellegri           
Maegan Lynne Socha          
Amanda R. Tirocchi 
Karen L. Weavill

Rhode Island's 2023 CFRE Recipient

head_shot_samuel.jpgSamuel Lawrence, CFRE

Congratulations to Sam Lawrence, AFP-RI member who obtained his CFRE in March 2023. Sam has been an AFP member since 2019 and previously served on the professional development committee. Sam began his fundraising career at the Rhode Island Foundation as their first fundraising apprentice. Following experiences fundraising for the Rhode Island Free Clinic and the Groden Network, Sam was promoted to Director of Philanthropy and Communications at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northern Rhode Island. He is currently working to wrap up a $7 million capital campaign to build a new clubhouse in Woonsocket. Sam enjoys traveling, spending time with his family, and searching for the best shops and restaurants in Providence.

“Pursuing my CFRE was validating and rewarding. The certification has helped build my confidence to take on this new leadership role. If you are considering pursuing the exam, my advice is to just do it. There will never be a “perfect” time to do it.”

Rhode Island's 2022 CFRE Recipient

Edward McPherson, CFRE

Congratulations, to Edward McPherson for obtaining his CFRE this year! Edward is an AFP-RI member and President-Elect of the Rhode Island Chapter! Edward is Director of Development & Marketing at Newport County Community Mental Health Center. His leadership and commitment to fundraising and our RI Chapter is admired. Please join us in congratulating Edward on this prestigious achievement.

Rhode Island's 2021 CFRE Recipient

Jessica Null, CFRE

Congratulations, to Jessica Null, AFP-RI member who obtained her CFRE in November. Jess has been an AFP member since 2019 and is active on both the membership and professional development committees. She also started AFP-RI's popular book club. She first began fundraising while in college, working with her alumni office and completing an internship in Washington D.C. Jess currently works for Thundermist Health Center as a Development Manager. During her tenure, she has elevated their fundraising program and helped complete a successful $1.2 million capital campaign. When she isn't fundraising, you can find her hiking, skiing, on the beach or enjoying Rhode Island's exceptional food and beverage options.

Rhode Island's 2020 CFRE Recipient

Kelley Coen, CFRE

Kelley is an entrepreneurial philanthropy professional with 20 years of experience in support for local nonprofits with high performance results and team spirit. She enjoys Moves Management, relationship building and a donor centric philanthropy. Kelley joined the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County in May 2019 as their first Director of Development for the Club. She previously worked as Major Gifts Officer at Newport Hospital and tenure with the Development team at Salve Regina University. Kelley earned her MBA from Western New England College and her BA in English Communications with a minor in Spanish from Salve Regina University. An active member of the Newport community, Kelley lives locally with her husband Chris and 2 teenage daughters and dog Macy.

“As fundraisers we naturally give of ourselves for others, when it comes to ourselves we all tend to need a little push of encouragement. My encouragement came from Christine, when I reached out with curiosity about the exam she gave me the confidence to go for it. 2020 is your year, just do it.”

Rhode Island's 2019 CFRE Recipient

Amanda Tirocchi, CFRE

Amanda Tirocchi, CFRE is passionate about creating a happier and more connected world. Over ten years in the non-profit sector, she has developed a love for building strong donor relationships. With a background in science, Amanda believes a data-driven approach to fundraising is the key to non-profit success, and that utilizing empathy and storytelling to humanize scientifically proven methods is the future of the field. She is currently working to create a more environmentally-minded, compassionate, and philanthropic Rhode Island through her role at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

"In my experience with the CFRE application process and exam, professional development was really the key. Taking as many courses, classes, and webinars as you are able, will not only help you gain the knowledge you need to pass the exam but will bring your fundraising to new levels."

Rhode Island’s 2018 CFRE Recipient

Cheryl_Comai.jpgBeth Watson, CFRE

Educated by the Sisters of Mercy in elementary school, Beth joined the Sisters of Mercy – Northeast Community as its Director of Mission Advancement in November of 2013. Right out of college, Beth helped launch USA TODAY in the New England market and served as Regional Marketing Manager in Boston for 6 years. Before joining Mercy, Beth previously worked at the Providence Public Library, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, Children’s Friend and Service in South Providence and Caritas in Pawtucket. Beth also helped establish the first children’s bereavement center in Rhode Island, FRIENDS WAY. Beth served on the Board of the RI chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for 5 years, chairing the Marketing committee and serving on the National Philanthropy Day committees. Beth is a member of the 2015 Leadership RI Lambda II class. She received her CFRE accreditation in March, 2019.

“I thought so many times during my career about taking the CFRE exam. Unfortunately I put every obstacle in my own way.  My New Year’s Resolution was to respond to my internal dialogue with the sentiments “If not now, then when Beth”. So in January, I flipped the switch, submitted my application, paid the fee, purchased and read the recommended books, and sat for the exam. I can say with all honesty that I should have done it years ago. Reviewing my breath of fundraising knowledge was very validating to me, and I am pleased with the results.  I encourage every professional fundraiser in Rhode Island to just flip the switch and sit for the exam – if not now, then when, I ask! You ARE ready!”  

Rhode Island’s 2017 CFRE Recipients

Cheryl_Comai.jpgCheryl Comai, CFRE

Cheryl Comai has been fundraising for over 26 years in both Rhode Island and Connecticut. Since 2011 she has been at Partners in Philanthropy LLC, a full-service fundraising consulting firm, where she worked with numerous clients including: Trinity Repertory Co., WaterFire, Newport Restoration Foundation, the United Theatre and the Met School. Prior to that Cheryl held senior advancement positions at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Meeting Street School, Bryant University, Roger Williams University and the RI Philharmonic. She is an AFP-RI member and on the Board of Directors at Trinity Repertory Co. Congratulations Cheryl on achieving your CFRE!

christine-pellegri.jpgChristine Pellegri, CFRE, MPA

Christine Pellegri is currently the President of AFP-RI.  In 2017, she fulfilled a long-time goal by achieving her CFRE.  A professional fundraiser with over 26 years of experience, Christine has worked at large and small nonprofits in Rhode Island and Massachusetts with the last eight years spent in higher education.  She is currently the Senior Advancement Officer at UMass Dartmouth.  Prior to that she was the Major Gifts Officer at Bridgewater State University.  Christine encourages anyone who has questions about taking the CFRE exam to reach out to her (  “I received invaluable encouragement and advice from Erica Donnelly, CFRE, Past President of AFP-RI, while preparing for the CFRE exam and would be happy to pay it forward!