WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2016 - Up, up, up. That seems to be the trend line for CEO compensation at major nonprofit trade organizations in the agriculture, food and energy space. As we’ve reported in the past, C-Suite pay trended downward from 2008 to 2010 – after the recession took a hit on many organizations and their funding sources – but pay levels have been steadily increasing since then.

For 2016, the median CEO base salary for mid-size organizations, (with revenues in the $1-5 million range) is $196,000 according to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). That’s about an 8 percent increase from the organization’s 2014 level. (See table). 

In some cases, organizations could be making increases as a result of the need to retain or attract top talent in a more competitive environment as many in the “baby boomer” generation get ready to retire, says Robert Skelton, ASAE’s vice president of administration. “CEO salaries seem to be trending higher than the median for all salaries,” he says, and benefit packages are also still “healthy.” ASAE represents more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners from some 9,300 organizations. The group surveys members to obtain salary data.

Agri-Pulse has tracked CEO salary levels for over two decades to help better inform board members who are responsible for making decisions about compensation packages. It’s not an easy task and varies by size of organization, responsibilities, geographic location and other factors. In some cases, top lobbyists in DC earn more than CEOs based in other locations.

We rely primarily on non-profit tracker Guidestar.org for this information, as well as USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which provides data on checkoff boards for this report. But sometimes we ask organizations to provide to us their latest 990 forms (tax returns for tax-exempt organizations), which by law must be available to the public. Still, some had not yet reported 2015 data or in a few cases, refused to respond to our requests.

Skelton has seen a lot more retirements and postings for jobs at the CEO level this year.

“With the turnover I’m seeing, I don’t know if there will be as many qualified candidates – which can create some more competition,” Skelton adds. “In some associations, you might actually see salaries going up beyond the average to attract new hires.”

Non-profit boards are also doing their homework, using compensation consultants or committees to help with the analysis of what should be paid. “Boards are really trying to do a good job in making sure that whatever they are paying at the top levels makes sense and is supported by the data,” he adds. Another trend is paying for performance. “Folks don’t want to just give out the big salaries anymore,” he says. “Boards want strategic thinking about where they want the association to go and how to measure that performance.”

At the end of the day, Skelton says there is no cut and dried formula for figuring out what to pay, based on benchmarks like annual revenue. Different factors come into play for each association, he explains. “For example, in the D.C. area, where you have a large concentration of association nonprofits and the federal government, the pay scales tend to be higher. The same applies for jobs in Chicago and New York, while you might not pay as high of levels in places like St. Louis.”

Skelton’s observations coincide with many of the same trends seen in the annual Agri-Pulse 2016 CEO compensation report, which was expanded this year from 104 to 108 nonprofit associations and national checkoff boards.

The “top gun” in terms of total compensation in this survey is once again American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard. He received base pay of more than $2.56 million plus a bonus of over $860,000 and other benefits that brings his total compensation to over $5.68 million, according to API’s 2014 report. That’s almost five times the combined salaries of the CEOs of the three leading ethanol advocacy groups: Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association (both based in D.C.) and the American Coalition for Ethanol (based in Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Banking organizations came in second and third in terms of top base pay, with Camden Fine, CEO of the Independent Community Bankers Association, earning $1.6 million in base pay with a total compensation package of over $2.45 million. American Bankers Association’s CEO Frank Keating II received $1.36 million in base pay, and a total package worth slightly more than $2 million in the group’s 2014 report. We were not able to obtain the 2015 990 report with data for new CEO Rob Nichols, who joined in May 2015.

Connie Tipton, the president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and longtime voice of dairy foods companies in Washington, earned the fourth-highest compensation package on our list, and the highest ranking for a female. IDFA reported her base pay as $626,719, but the total compensation package was worth $3.98 million. Tipton, who has led the association since 2004, plans to retire at the end of this year.

Most of the 990 forms provide routine information on CEO compensation, like base salary and bonuses, but sometimes organizations approve additional forms of compensation. For example, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association reported in its 990 form for the year ending Sept. 30, 2014, a loan to then CEO Forrest Roberts of $155,697 as part of his employment agreement. The balance due was listed as $103,798. Roberts resigned in June 2015, and NCBA did not respond to our request for more information about this loan and whether or not it has been repaid.

Please see the tables below for compensation data analyzed by Agri-Pulse for our 2016 survey and the explanatory footnotes. In some cases, CEOs are responsible for more than one organization.

To view the CEO Compensation Report, click here.


For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com