Serving Others at the Expense of Self: The Relationship between Nonprofit CEO Compensation and Performance in Trade and Professional Associations

Marina Saitgalina, Andrew A. Bennett, Christopher S. Reina, Joseph E. Coombs


This paper investigates the organizational importance of relative CEO compensation in trade associations and professional societies. It is known that there is variation in how much pay is tied to performance in different subcategories of nonprofit organizations. However, instead of looking at how performance affects pay, we investigate how CEO compensation affects organization performance when CEOs are aware of their peer compensation and are able to influence their own. We hypothesized that CEOs who knowingly earn less will be associated with both greater financial and nonfinancial organizational performance. This altruistic perspective draws on theories from leadership and psychology rather than the more typical agency perspective and focuses on the alignment between CEO and stakeholders in a nonprofit setting. We find strong support for the relationship between lower relative CEO compensation and organization performance, while results for the moderating effect of organizational size are mixed. 


Nonprofit Organizations; Nonprofit Management; Executive Compensation; CEO Compensation

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