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Trends in CEO Compensation and Benefits

If you're on the hunt for a CEO job, exhaustive research into the mission, structure, culture and challenges of hiring associations will serve you well. And a marker for compensation norms isn't a bad resource to have at your disposal also.

By Emily Rabbitt

Whether you're seeking your first CEO spot or your next one, benchmarks for compensation and benefits packages can help inform your search. ASAE's Association Compensation and Benefits Study, 2016-2017 Edition details trends in CEO salary and benefits, including encouraging news about pay as you grow.

CEO Salaries

If you take a CEO job now, you're likely to see your base pay grow as you gain experience in the role. Recent-year data collected through ASAE Foundation research supporting the study suggests a pattern of continuous advancement in CEO compensation. CEO salary growth was reported for organizations of every staff size and in all budget categories except for the smallest two. In a select sample of 71 organizations that participated in the Association Compensation and Benefits Survey in 2012, 2014, and 2016, median real growth (adjusted for inflation) overall for CEO salaries was 11.2 percent.

If you're in a position to compete for a job in a large organization, there's more good news. In the recent CEO Salary Dynamics research brief, survey participants who responded to this and the preceding two ASAE compensation studies reported that CEO salaries in organizations with budgets greater than $10 million were nearly three times those of organizations in the smallest budget category ($500,000-$999,999). The average CEO salary for associations in all budget categories was slightly more than half of salaries in organizations with the largest budgets.

Recent-year data collected suggests a pattern of continuously growing salaries, so if you take a CEO job now, you're likely to see your base pay grow.

CEO Benefits

One of the ways associations show that they value their employees is through generous benefits packages. Many organizations offer CEO-specific benefits, detailed in the Association Compensation and Benefits Study, 2016-2017 Edition.

Associations give a variety of benefits to their chief executives, including bonuses, incentives to maintain professional networks and industry knowledge, transportation and travel subsidies, and communication and technology reimbursement.

Bonuses are a common CEO benefit. Overall, 51.1 percent of organizations offer bonuses to their CEOs. Almost a quarter of organizations that offer bonuses do so only to the CEO, and just over three-quarters offer them to staff as well as CEOs.

CEOs spend a lot of time on the road, attending conferences, cultivating relationships, and spreading the message of their associations. That adds up to a lot of time away from home, making companion travel subsidies an attractive perk. As reported in a forthcoming ASAE Foundation CEO Benefits research brief, 34 percent of the associations that offer CEO-specific benefits provided for spouse or companion travel.

Even more so than most workers, CEOs need to stay connected around the clock. Many associations (79.6 percent) cover mobile phone monthly fees, and 53.6 percent cover device purchases. More organizations are covering tablet purchases—38.5 percent—and 22.6 percent cover the monthly fees for tablets.

What you know and who you know are essential on the path to CEO success, and some associations recognize the importance of learning and maintaining professional contacts in their benefits packages. Just less than a third of associations offer reimbursement to obtain or sustain professional credentials or licenses, and 78.4 percent pay for membership dues.

Emily Rabbitt is associate editor, research content and knowledge, for the ASAE Foundation. Email: [email protected]

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