How Do Your Job Benefits Stack Up?

Benefits can account for as much as 30 percent of an employee’s overall compensation package. Discover which benefits are crucial and peek at what other associations are doing via data from ASAE’s Association Compensation & Benefits Study.

When association professionals are looking for jobs, they often focus on salary, which is important, but benefits are important, too, according to Cindy Heine, president of Associated Benefits Consulting, a firm that provides benefits solutions for associations.

Heine noted that employees “should pay a heck of a lot of attention to benefits,” because they generally make up 20 to 30 percent of an employee’s overall compensation package. In a tight job market, benefits are an area associations will use to add extra oomph to their offers.

“Much like any other employer, associations are competing for talent, so their ability to be distinctive in some ways makes a difference in attracting and maintaining that talent,” Heine said.

With associations offering extras to attract talent, it’s important to know which benefits matter most and which can fall by the wayside. That’s where expert advice paired with data can help. Here, we’ll look at Heine’s tips and data from ASAE’s 2018-2019 Association Compensation & Benefits Study, which analyzed salary and benefits information from hundreds of associations.

While some employees may be interested in benefits like teleworking, gym memberships, or tuition assistance, Heine said three benefits tend to come out on top for most people: healthcare, leave, and the retirement package. “Pay attention to the details of it,” Heine said. “The details matter. I would look at what it is that’s being given, what is being offered, and what kind of employer contributions are there.”

Specifically, with healthcare, employees should look at whether dependents are covered and at what rate. Most employers pay a smaller share of healthcare costs for dependents. Large associations are likely to have cheaper healthcare plans because of their size. “An association employer is not different from any other employer, in that the access to employee benefits is easier and less expensive per person, the larger you are,” Heine said.

Leave is important, too, and Heine said smaller associations will sometimes sweeten the benefits pot by offering extras like paternity leave or more generous family leave. When it comes to retirement plans, which are heavily regulated by federal law and have some basic defined parameters, employees should look at employer contributions and vesting schedules.

Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s take a look at some numbers to see how your association compares.


Healthcare benefits are key, with Heine saying, “There are so many bankruptcies per year because of medical bills, so I tend to go right to insurance.” According to ASAE’s research, most associations (74.9 percent) offered a preferred provider organization health plan (PPO). Fewer associations provided a health maintenance organization (HMO, 33.8 percent), high-deductible health plan (27.5 percent), or point of service plan (14.9 percent). Associations sometimes offered multiple plans to choose from, which is why the percentages total more than 100.

Small associations (up to 20 staff) are better for single people, as they pay for most of their employee’s premium (the median paid was 100 percent), but pay little or nothing for dependents. Larger associations are better for families, as they pay a big share of both premiums. Depending on the plan type (HMO or PPO), the median portion of the premium large associations (more than 51 staff) paid for their employees ranged from 75 to 85 percent; similarly, for dependents, the median portion of the premium paid ranged from 70 to 74 percent.

Paid Leave

Looking at the median data, most associations start with 10 days of paid vacation, and after five years, move up to 15 days. The largest associations (more than 101 staff) started employees with 11 days and moved to 16.5 days after five years. Sick leave was fairly universal. All except the smallest associations (up to 10 staff), started employees with 10 days of sick leave. The smallest associations median starting leave was 8.5 days. Sick leave did not to change over time, except the smallest associations joined everyone else. After five years of employment, all associations offered a median 10 days of sick leave.

Retirement Plans

Most associations want to help make sure employees can retire comfortably, so 68.9 percent offer a 401(k) plan and 19.2 percent offer a 403(b) plan (a retirement option only available to select groups, including nonprofits and schools). Some associations offered other types of plans, with a small share (6.1 percent) offering a defined-benefits pension plan.

Small associations offered median contributions of 5 percent, a little less than the largest associations, whose median contribution was 6.5 percent. A little more than a third of respondents said employees had to wait before they become fully vested in the retirement plan. Of those respondents, the median time small associations required employees to wait was five years, compared to three years for the largest associations.

What type of benefits matter most to you? Please tell us in the comments.

(marchmeena29/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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