New AGB Report Highlights Differences in College and University Foundation CEO Compensation

By AGB October 31, 2023 Press Releases
Press Release

For Immediate Release
Morgan Alexander

WASHINGTON, DC (October 31, 2023)—Today, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) published the AGB Report on College and University Foundation CEO Compensation. The CEOs, who lead the institutionally related foundations that philanthropically support colleges and universities, receive compensation packages that range from less than $100,000 a year to more than $400,000 a year, often varying by the structure of the foundation, the scope of CEO responsibilities, and even demographic information. The report notes a 9.5 percent response rate, meaning that the results should be considered illustrative rather than definitive. AGB is the premier membership organization advocating strategic board governance for college, university, and affiliated foundation governing boards.

While the median base salary for responding foundation CEOs surpassed $250,000, most CEOs earned between $100,000 and $300,000. CEOs who oversaw more staff usually saw larger salaries. CEOs of foundations that were categorized as “autonomous” accounted for the largest proportion of top earners, while CEOs of dependent foundations were compensated less than those that headed interdependent or autonomous foundations. Autonomous foundations are usually operationally more complex and have greater flexibility in setting CEO compensation.

The report categorized foundations as “dependent,” “interdependent,” and “autonomous” based on the foundation’s reliance on institutional resources and the source of the CEO’s compensation. Foundations would be considered dependent if the staff, including CEOs, and their operations are funded by the institutions. Interdependent foundations typically had at least one senior staff member wholly compensated by the foundation. Foundations considered autonomous were the source of funding for all foundation staff.

The report is significant because this type of comparison data for institutionally related foundation CEOs does not exist elsewhere. These foundations can have enormous differences in their size, their assets under management, their responsibilities, and their relationship to the institution.

“This is a significant starting point that will help college and university presidents, foundation CEOs, and governing boards ask better questions about compensation,” said David Bass, AGB executive director of philanthropic governance. “Affiliated foundations are often a significant source of financial support for institutions, and their responsibilities grow with each passing year. The return on investment in advancement is enormous, and more and more foundations are becoming mission-critical strategic partners to their institutions. Recruiting and retaining high-performing CEOs is an ongoing challenge for many institutions and foundation boards. We hope this report supports them in that work.”

The full report is available on the AGB website.

The compensation survey is the latest AGB resource for boards and chief executives of college and university foundations. Recently, the association hosted a webinar to help board members explore mergers between the foundation and the alumni association. AGB will host its annual Institute for Foundation Board Leaders and Chief Executives in Denver, June 6 –7, 2024.

About AGB
The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the premier membership organization that strengthens higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their organizations. Through our vast library of resources, educational events, and consulting services, and with more than 100 years of experience, we empower 40,000 AGB members from more than 2,000 institutions and foundations to navigate complex issues, implement leading practices, streamline operations, and govern with confidence. AGB is the trusted resource for board members, chief executives, and key administrators on higher education governance and leadership. Learn more at


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