Summary This article considers NGO?donor relationships in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Both NGOs and aid donors have emerged only recently as meaningful actors in post?Soviet space. More particularly, they have emerged together: NGOs are essentially the product of donor intervention and are the vehicles of donors’ aspirations for the creation of a sustainable and autonomous ‘civil society’ in Georgia. The article explores the NGO?donor ‘partnership’ this gives rise to, seeing this as a relationship that includes functional linkages and a deeper set of socio?cultural exchanges. The nature of the partnership, in which donors are much the stronger partners, is shown to pervade NGOs’ wider relationships and shape their development to such an extent that it acts in some ways to undermine the achievement of the very outcomes donors most desire. While the NGO sector is rapidly expanding, it is not developing the social, political or economic roots to become sustainable and autonomous in the near future. This indicates the need for a profound re?think of the NGO?donor partnership in Georgia, and in particular the need to move towards a deeper and less generalised understanding of the context.