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The Professional Standard

The Certificate in Education Foundation Leadership, CEFL, is the professional standard and is the only certification program designed exclusively for education foundation leaders and executives. This program provides foundation leaders with specific skills and knowledge required to lead and manage an education foundation, regardless of size.

Across the country, education foundations and their leaders need to operate more efficiently to impact the education community they serve, more effectively. The CEFL Certification Program strengthens an education foundation to succeed now and into the future with proven standards of excellence for the administration and management of an education foundation regardless of foundation size,  geographic location, or education community served [IE: Public, Private, Charter, Magnet, and College].

Based on the Guiding Principles for Education Foundations, the CEFL Certification Program provides critical insights from subject matter experts in six domains. Specifically: Leadership & Planning, Marketing, Legal & Finance, Resource Development, Board Development, and Collaboration.


For additional information about the CEFL Certification Program, please contact our Program Director, Sara Bender, CEFL.

Contact Sara

Registration Fees

For access to the online learning platform, we must receive payment in advance of the course's start date.

The cost for the six-course program is $3,000 and we provide two payment options:

  • Pay in full and receive a 10% or $300 discount. Payment of $2,700 must be received on or before the start of CEFL 101.
  • Pay by the course at $500/each. We must receive payment before the start of each course.

Potential Training Grants

Some states offer grants to cover training for nonprofit professionals.

See available funding in your state

The Program 

The CEFL is offered online in an asynchronous format that is self-paced with weekly deadlines. Optional weekly check-ins over Zoom provide a space to connect in real time with instructors and peers from across the country.

Each course is four weeks; the certificate can be completed in about six months. New in 2023 is a “Flex” week between each course. This allows students the flexibility to work ahead, catch up on any missed work, or just enjoy some time off.

Enrolled students may access course materials beginning April 23; courses begin April 30. 

The 2023 Calendar is as follows:

 Month Date Course Module


 23 101* FLEX
 April 30 101 W1
 May 7 101 W2
 May 14 101 W3
 May 21 101 W4
 May 28 101/102 FLEX
 June 4 102 W1
 June 11 102 W2
 June 18 102 W3
 June 25 102 W4
 July 2 102/103 FLEX
 July 9103
 July 16 103 W2
 July 23 103 W3
 July 30 103 W4
 August 6 103/104 FLEX
 August 13 104 W1
 August 20 104 W2
 August 27 104 W3
 September 3 104 W4
 September 10 104/105 FLEX
 September 17 105 W1
 September 24 105 W2
 October 1 105 W3
 October 8 105 W4
 October 15 105/106 FLEX
 October 22 106 W1
 October 29 106 W2
 November 5 106 W3
 November 12 106 W4
 November 19 106* FLEX

CEFL 101: Leadership & Planning

Leadership & Planning provides an understanding of education foundation leadership and organizational development by covering topics of: strategic planning & implementation, program evaluation, volunteer management, liaison and support of the school district, constituent alliance, balancing the four entities of programs, administration, development and marketing/public relations.

“This has made me feel more confident to work with the board on creating a strategic plan. Now I understand how it comes together and the process is not as hard as I thought it would be.” – 2022 CEFL Participant

CEFL 102: Marketing

Marketing provides students with an opportunity to learn the basics of marketing while simultaneously applying and testing knowledge through the development of a social media marketing plan. The course includes a mix of theoretical and practical learning assets that will enhance student's understanding of marketing, (infra)structure, market research, target markets, goals, strategies, analytical data, and budgeting.

“I loved the structure and layout of the course, the assignments we were required to complete, and the class discussion. I feel that I learned so much from my peers and instructor during the last 4 weeks, and I cannot wait to build a better marketing portfolio for my foundation.” – 2022 CEFL Participant

CEFL 103: Legal & Finance

Legal & Finance provides an understanding of the legal aspects and financial management of education foundations.  This will be accomplished via addressing key legal issues pertaining to non-profit organizations, both in set-up and in operation such as governing documents, legal & IRS requirements, donor responsibilities, gift restrictions, and ethical considerations on the legal side.  Financial management components of the course will include analyzing and reporting on financial statements, management’s responsibilities related to external audits, and budgeting for the organization.

“I like the aspect of learning not only from the instructors, but also from others in the course. They brought up things from their own experience and organizations that really made me think outside the box.” – 2022 CEFL Participant

CEFL 104: Resource Development

Resource Development provide an understanding of basic concepts, terminology, structure, revenue streams, and donor engagement demonstrated by a case for support. Students will build on their marketing skills to focus on the donor. Understanding donor perspectives will help foundation leaders set and accomplish development goals in line with overall vision and mission of an education foundation.

“Every detail is perfect. All 5's for instructor, content, format, lectures, materials, attention, feedback, support.” – 2022 CEFL Participant

CEFL 105: Board Development

Board Development provides an understanding of non-profit board governance and fiduciary responsibilities.  It will include a review of the roles of boards, typical committee structures, on-boarding of new board members, and expectations.  Students will learn techniques to effectively engage board members in furthering the mission of their education foundation.  This will include various evaluation techniques for boards, developing board leadership and succession planning, helping the board to effectively engage a broad network in the community, and assisting the board with organizational planning.

“Creating a guide and manual was huge for us. We did not have any materials in place and it helped to set us up and give some direction.” - 2022 CEFL Participant

CEFL 106: Collaboration

Education Foundation Collaboration provides an understanding of appropriate educational and community engagement for improving the foundation’s performance.  It includes a deep dive into school district structure, responsibilities of superintendents and school boards, and the district planning and budgeting process. Students will learn strategies to engage a network of critical community partners.  Volunteer utilization, beyond board and committee membership, will be explored using best practices from the nonprofit sector.

“I will have stronger collaboration with both internal and external partners thanks to the principles shared in this class, and the opportunity to reflect that it offered. It has also expanded my thoughts about other opportunities that I had not previously considered.” – 2022 CEFL Participant


The information provided in the courses of the Certificate in Education Foundation Leadership Program [“CEFL Program”] is governed by our Program Terms of Use  and Privacy Policy. It does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional advice. Instead, information, content, and materials provided as part of the CEFL Program are considered best practices. Information within the CEFL Program contains links to third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the student or user; the NAEF and its members do not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

No student or foundation should rely on the information in the CEFL Program in determining whether to act or refrain from acting. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of the CEFL Program are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided "as is;" no representations are made that the content is free of errors, inaccuracies, or misleading information.

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