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Evaluating the Performance of the Association Chief Executive Officer

Adopted: March 2012

What is a professional practice statement? This Professional Practice Statement, developed by the Association Forum, is provided as a management tool for associations and individual association professionals, developed by experts in the industry, and recommended as a means to achieve excellence in managing associations and other not-for-profit organizations.


The performance appraisal process is an important tool for measuring the effectiveness of the chief executive officer. Ensuring that performance expectations are achievable and mutually agreed upon by both the chief executive officer and the “Reviewing Body” (board or a subset of the governing body charged with this responsibility) is central to the purpose of the performance evaluation process. Performance evaluation should be an ongoing process that measures progress toward attaining performance and professional development goals. Most organizations function in an environment characterized by limited continuity at the board level, which can exacerbate problems arising from irregular performance appraisals. Whether or not there is good continuity, conducting regular performance appraisals is imperative.

Policy Position

The Association Forum endorses the practice of assessment of chief executive officer performance by the board at specified intervals throughout the year, culminating with a formal, annual performance review.

The chief executive officer’s performance evaluation should address the success of the association in attaining its organizational objectives as well as the success of the chief executive officer’s personal and professional development goals. Performance goals should always be coupled with objective and clearly stated measurement criteria, how the criteria will be measured as well as milestone activities.

The chief executive officer’s annual performance review should use a process that enhances the working relationship between the chief executive officer and the board and encourages an ongoing, two-way communication of expectations and sharing of information.

The process of collaboratively developing performance goals and measurement criteria results in performance review criteria that balance the expectations of the governing body with the executive’s understanding of association management realities.

Professional Practices for the Association Chief Executive Officer

  • Collaborate with the reviewing body to develop the executive’s performance goals, measurement criteria, how they will be measured and milestone activities based upon the strategic and annual plans and goals of the organization.
  • Develop performance and professional development goals, and secure the reviewing body’s commitment and approval for the pursuit of these goals.
  • Engage in periodic self-evaluation and offer self-appraisal to the reviewing body or a subset of the governing body charged with this responsibility on these goals at appropriate intervals.
  • Base personal performance goals and self-evaluation criteria on actions that further the association’s ability to achieve its organizational goals.
  • Maintain documentation adequate to ensure factual assessment of performance based on pre-established goals and pre-determined measurement criteria, and make that documentation available to the performance reviewers at appropriate intervals.

Professional Practices for the Governing Body

The association board should implement a performance evaluation process for the chief executive officer. That evaluation process should:

  • Include formation of a subset of the governing body to conduct the review.
  • Include a continuous process of performance monitoring and performance feedback, which culminates in a formal, written, annual performance review, the results of which should contain no surprises for either the reviewers or the chief executive officer.
  • Use collaboratively developed, clearly stated, achievable, and objectively measurable performance goals and expectations.
  • Base performance evaluation on factual, objective information, rather than unsubstantiated opinions.
  • Include a mechanism for obtaining objective feedback from all relevant parties.• Ensure the CEO’s performance appraisal is conducted within the context of professional association management practices and the organizational culture unique to the association.


The Association Forum expressly disclaims any warranties or guarantees, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable for damages of any kind, in connection with the material, information, or procedures set forth in these Statements or for reliance on the contents of these Statements. In issuing these Statements, the Association Forum is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services. If such services are required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Reference List

Association Forum’ s website has sample job descriptions at http://www.associationforum.org/Careers/content.cfm?ItemNumber=551&navItemNumber=547.

ASAE’s CEO Resources be accessed on its website at https://www.asaecenter.org/Career/content.cfm?ItemNumber=15973&navItemNumber=51892.

Governing for Growth: Using 7 Measures of Success to Strengthen Board Dialogue and Decision Making, ASAE, Nancy R. Axelrod, 2009.

Blue Chip Executive Association Compensation and Benefits Study, 2010--2011 Edition and Deluxe Online Compensation Calculator Kit, ASAE Industry Research.

Doing Good Better: How to be an Effective Board Member, Good Books, Edgar Stoesz, 2007.

Performance Evaluation and Performance-Based Compensation, ASAE Background Kit, 1996.

ASAE Executive Management Section http://www.asaecenter.org/Career/content.cfm?ItemNumber=15973&navItemNumber=51892.

Type: Professional Practice Statement

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