Created 20 years ago as the research arm of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, the SITE Foundation announced May 26 that it was breaking away from SITE and relaunching as an independent research foundation. The move sparked a wounded response from SITE, first in a May 29 e-mail blast to members from President Lex Granaada expressing dismay at the Foundation board's "unilateral decision," and later in a June 2 press release suggesting the Foundation board acted illegally by not first getting approval for the split from SITE's board of directors.

Apparently, SITE, which is managed by SmithBucklin, and the SITE Foundation, which is managed by a paid staff executive who is not a SmithBucklin employee, found themselves with differing priorities, with SITE wanting a narrower focus on the incentive travel industry, in keeping with its membership, and the Foundation looking to catch opportunities with a wider net--one that could include incentive travel, incentive merchandise, and motivational events and issues of all stripes.

"It's not that we're abandoning SITE, its goals, or its objectives," said Executive Director Frank Katusak, "but we are shifting from incentive travel to a wider scope, covering the whole range of the incentive industry."

In an e-mail blast to members, Granaada, managing partner at Granaada & Partner, an incentive marketing firm in Nieuw Vennep, The Netherlands, said the split occurred despite SITE's "best efforts" to maintain the relationship.

"Frankly, SITE is disappointed," added Brenda Anderson, SITE's CEO. "We were sad to hear that after 20 years of affiliation, they [SITE Foundation Board of Trustees] voted to sever its relationship with us. I'm not sure why they made the decision. It was a surprise to us, since just a few weeks ago we had a very positive joint meeting.”

At first erroneously telling members that the SITE Foundation was joining up with the International Marketing Association, Granaada sent a correction the following day.

In fact, the foundation has not announced its new name or any affiliations as yet. "A new name should come within the next week or two," said Katusak, adding that the foundation is considering its affiliation options and may create partnerships on a project-by-project basis. These partnerships could be with industry associations, academic institutions, corporations, or other entities.

Katusak also said that how the foundation's funding and assets would be handled were still to be worked out with SITE, though its annual fundraising golf invitational would continue. A second fundraiser, a European golf invitational, will be inaugurated in October in Costa Blanca, Spain.

Granaada's e-mail to members stated that SITE would create a new research foundation that would have responsibilities beyond research, including fundraising and education. The later press release was less specific, stating that SITE "will explore new opportunities to provide practical, multinational research, education, and funding for programs that benefit SITE membership, and the travel and incentive industry at-large."