SAN ANTONIO - A four-year, $40 million public awareness campaign to promote the CFP designation that planners are paying for through a special surcharge is working, CFP Board leaders say.

"Our mission is to really serve the public and if the public doesn't know about CFP certification and about financial planning, it's hard to serve the public," says Kevin Keller, CEO of the CFP Board. "I think a way to look at it really is for $145, what could one CFP professional do?" Keller adds.

On top of a $180 annual fee, the CFP Board's 67,000 members are also each paying a $145 surcharge for the promotional campaign, which includes advertising on NPR and in major consumer publications.

The CFP Board surveyed advisors about the additional fee before launching the campaign and found strong support, says Alan Goldfarb, chairman of the CFP Board and director of wealth management at Weaver Wealth Management in Dallas. Both he and Keller spoke at the annual FPA conference in San Antonio.

The campaign encourages the public to visit, which has an enhanced "Find a CFP professional" search function. "They're not only finding a planner," Goldfarb says, "but more important, they are finding out what a planner does [and] what kinds of questions to ask a perspective planner so they're more comfortable with the outcomes."

Demonstrating the effectiveness of the campaign, Goldfarb and Keller pointed to a survey in April that found 24% of those questioned were aware of the CFP designation without being provided additional information, up from 19% in a 2011 study.

"It's important the public be aware of the profession," Goldfarb adds. Indeed, not just the public is learning about the CFP designation. "We've had great growth in the number of CFP professionals - it's up 22% in the past five years," Keller says.

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