WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2013 - The men and women driving farm and food policy from the helm of nonprofit trade associations may not be “bringing home the bacon” like folks leading publicly-traded companies, but a review of their compensation packages shows significant gains from prior years.

As we reported in our annual CEO report last year, the economic doldrums impacting much of the United States also put a damper on raises in the nonprofit sector. They were just starting to rebound in 2009-2010 and now appear to be rapidly gaining ground, according to a review of salary data by the nonprofit monitor GuideStar, which plans to publish its own CEO report next week.

“Our report tells us that, in most cases, executive compensation increases were somewhat higher in 2011 for incumbent CEOs than in 2010,” said Chuck McLean, vice president of research for GuideStar and the author of their analysis for 13 straight years. “Still, compensation increases have not yet reached levels seen before the ‘Great Recession.’”

The median salary for association CEOs is $169,309 reported ASAE in their 2012-2013 Association Compensation and Benefits Study. ASAE represents more than 21,000 association executives and notes that executive salaries depend on a number of factors, including a CEO’s duties and experience, office location, staff size, organization budget and membership structure.

Executives of trade associations typically earn more than their peers at individual membership organizations, largely because their boards are usually made up of high paying executives at member companies who are willing to shell out more for star power, according to a report in ASAE’s “Associations Now.”

For example, the American Banking Association hired former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating as president and CEO in 2011 with a base salary of over $1.2 million. His predecessor, Ed Yingling, earned “only” slightly over $1.05 million in base salary the previous year.

Women are closing the gap with men in the number of CEO positions held, but the difference in salaries remains large, particularly in smaller associations, notes ASAE. One exception: Pamela Bailey, who leads the Grocery Manufacturers Association. For the second year in a row, her compensation package of over $2.1 million tops the list of farm, food and environmental organization salaries reviewed by Agri-Pulse.

To see how other CEO salaries compared, Agri-Pulse worked with GuideStar and their database of 990 forms, which are required by the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofits with over $5,000 in revenue. Other salary reports came directly from trade associations or, in the case of national checkoff leaders, the USDA. One note of caution when comparing salary levels with last year’s report. Prior to 2012, 990 reports often double-counted retirement and deferred compensation when calculating total compensation and inflated some total results.

To see the CEO salaries, click here.


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