Career: Prove Your Worth

with Leonard Pfeiffer

Many association volunteer leaders think your job as AE is easy, and maybe you’re even overpaid. Yet, even if your board members value you, it’s still a good strategy to prove your worth every day.

Here are some tips from Leonard Pfeiffer, a 25-year veteran in the association executive search business, on showing your worth.

Become Transparent

If you do your job well, directors only ever see smooth-running meetings, organized staff, and functioning services. Today, you need to let them—and members— get a glimpse behind the scenes of your association. Although it’s a delicate balance between pompous horn-blowing and selfless, graceful informing, try detailing your weekly or monthly challenges and accomplishments in a report to the board or even a blog. Tweet often or meet in person with directors. Answer phones now and then before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m.—members will marvel with one another at having reached you instead of a voice message.

Watch How It Looks

Craft a new sensitivity about how anything you say or do, or how you present yourself or the association, can be misread by members who may be in financial stress. For example, when you spend association money on travel and lodging to attend a routine state or national meeting, make a formal presentation to elected leaders and members upon your return that covers what you’ve learned and why it was important for you to ­attend. When elected leaders stay in a nice hotel or have a meal paid for by the association, remind members how much time away from their business they donate for free to the association.

Be In It Together

Association CEOs across the country have voluntarily taken pay cuts and shed bonuses to demonstrate to members, who were obviously hurting economically, that they were willing to give up some of their income, too. Maybe this wasn’t necessary to save jobs or balance the association’s books, but it was a clear sign to elected leaders and members that the association staff wasn’t going to operate “business as usual” when members were struggling. When members are cutting back, show your solidarity by cutting back on office supplies, catered food, travel, and even utilities by conserving energy.

Be Popular

Build strong relationships within your organization, creating the perception of being a “team player” and enhancing your network. Try bolstering your voice among members with a blog, a profile on social networking Web sites, or a column in the local paper.

Document Accomplishments

Keep notes throughout the year to accurately document your achievements. Keep letters of commendation, continuing education certificates, awards, news clippings, and any other citations that bolster and quantify your contributions to the association and the community.

Ask for an Annual Review

New Tool from NAR: Chief Staff Performance Evaluation

Does your board of directors understand the complexity and uniqueness of your job and the vast skill set you must have to accomplish your myriad duties? Likely not. That’s why this new toolkit from NAR is so essential. It guides elected leaders through evaluating your job performance thoroughly and fairly.

Because each association is unique, developing a single standardized evaluation tool is impractical. Yet, this information can be the blueprint for developing an evaluation process that works for your organization year after year.

The online kit includes processes for establishing and evaluating a chief staff executive’s skills, attributes, goals, and objectives. You’ll also find sample scenarios, sample forms, and best practices. Access at, search “chief staff performance evaluation.”

Median Association CEO Total Compensation by Annual Budget

Budget: $100,001 to $499,999 Compensation: $95,100
Budget: $500,001 to $999,999 Compensation: $117,600
Budget: $1M to $4.9M Compensation: $192,500
Budget: $5M to $9.9M Compensation: $333,786
Budget: $10M to $24.5M Compensation: $498,019

Source: ASAE Association Compensation and Benefits Study, 2012-2013 Edition

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nonprofit Organization Total Pay

$47,293 to $212,534 (Median: $97,749)


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