Council for Adult & Experiential Learning


A Leadership Council

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) partnered with LAPA Fundraising for a planning service to develop and activate their first national Leaders Council.  The new council established a goal of launching a new CAEL fund, the Forward Together Fund, to secure unrestricted support.

CAEL is a 40-year-old national nonprofit organization that creates and manages effective learning strategies for working adults through partnerships with employers, higher education, government, and labor.

 CAEL is recognized for its experience in designing and implementing programs that address skills shortages, help workers improve their employability, and remove barriers to lifelong learning.

CAEL makes learning opportunities more accessible to adults, particularly low-wage workers.

The Challenge

CAEL needed to raise $1 million annually to fund and pilot innovative projects. However, this was only one challenge they faced: they also lacked the infrastructure to reach their CEO’s dream of developing a national leadership council, and they needed to develop a more robust major giving pipeline.

In order to advance those transformative goals, LAPA recommended establishing a CAEL Leaders Council. This was in fact  a longtime dream of CAEL’s founder and CEO, Pamela Tate, but CAEL lacked the staff capacity, design capability, and research skills to make this dream a reality. They also lacked a sufficient major gift pipeline.

A leadership council is composed of a group of individuals outside of an organization’s board (though some do welcome select board members). These individuals fulfill a number of special functions for your nonprofit, such as expanding your donor network, hosting Parties With A Purpose, and joining you for a donor meeting. Unlike board members who assume a governance responsibility, the council is a nongovernance group. To learn more about Leaders Councils, click here.


  • CAEL established a 15-person national leadership council.
  • In seeking unrestricted annual funds, we crafted a compelling case for support that established the new Forward Together Fund.
  • CAEL’s Board of Trustees giving achieved 100% participation.
  • The most significant major gift research in CAEL’s history was completed identifying 12,000 new major donor prospects.
  • Gift Acceptance Policies were adopted.

The Solution

In response to these challenges, LAPA worked closely with CAEL’s executive team to design and launch a national Leaders Council, an ongoing advancement and fundraising structure. LAPA also defined and introduced the new Forward Together Fund, to raise unrestricted support for CAEL’s signature innovative initiatives, its independent research, its policy, and advocacy work. The members of CAEL’s Leaders Council personally support the fund.

The solution also included LAPA delivering these advancement services:

  • A donor-centered case for support
  • Identification of 12,000 new value-aligned donors derived from advanced prospect research
  • Recruitment of 15 prominent community leaders to serve on the Leaders Council
  • Comprehensive Gift Acceptance Policies

The Impact

The impact of the services on CAEL was transformational in many ways:

  • The Leaders Council was established and is now an ongoing, permanent part of CAEL’s fundraising program.
  • Even though a planning service, LAPA still raised $4 for every dollar CAEL spent on fundraising.
  • An ongoing fundraising method and process was established for securing unrestricted support.