WINGS – Emerging associations compare notes

Representatives of grantmaker associations from three continents braved the Moscow chill in January to come together to share experiences of the early stages of association development. All were fairly young organizations. Formal establishment (where it had happened) had taken place only in the last three or four years.

The group in Moscow came from Argentina, Ecuador, East Africa, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Pavlína Kalousová, CEO of the somewhat older Czech Donors Forum, was there to share her Forum’s experience.

Discussions during the two-day meeting focused on four key topics:
· positioning the association at the early stages of development;
· membership issues – both formal questions about the structure of membership, criteria and codes of practice and more intangible issues such as attracting and retaining members;
· services to members – in particular, how to remain responsive to members while also addressing broader issues such as the legal and fiscal environment and promotion of new grantmaking institutions;
· lobbying and advocacy.

Several important points emerged about the way associations develop. It was clear that the earliest decisions about the structure and nature of an association can have far-reaching effects on development. It was also evident that grantmaker associations generally cannot grow quietly and incrementally. Many of the group had stories to tell about being plummeted into issues and campaigns of importance to their members, or having to react to challenges and threats to the donor community, while still feeling very new to the field.

This is WINGS’ third peer learning meeting. As with the first two, it was clear that this kind of detailed, open sharing of experience across countries and regions is of real practical value.

Summaries of the sessions will appear on the WINGS website, plus links to material that the meeting found particularly useful.

Gaynor Humphreys is Director of WINGS – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support. She can be contacted at

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