The Power of Global Networks - Blog Series

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The advantages and risks of building strategic partnerships

Right now, for the first time during its existence, the Women’s Fund in Georgia is in the process of hiring a full-time fundraiser for individual and corporate giving. In the end of January we conducted a number of interviews with shortlisted candidates who applied for the position. One of the best candidates emphasized the need to network with the Georgian Orthodox Christian Church – without doubt the most influential religious institution in the country – along with other institutions and agencies in order to improve the visibility of the fund and gain more supporters and stakeholders.

Since its establishment in 2005 Women’s Fund in Georgia has had tight links with women’s groups as well as various donor agencies inside and outside Georgia, including donor spaces like Women’s Funding Network, International Network of Women’s Funds and Grantmakers Without Borders. However, the level of networking and collaboration outside the donor and civil society sector has not been significant till now, not including several brief intersections. 

In December 2010, in the frames of the strategic planning process our team conducted a self-assessment survey with a specialized questionnaire that was sent to WFG’s stakeholders – grantees, applicants, supporters, women’s rights and human rights groups in Georgia. The analysis of the results showed us that the main recommendation of the fund’s stakeholders was to increase WFG’s visibility in order to make it more known and popular among the public.

This is very much connected to the current fundraising and PR aims of the fund since we have started a project for increasing the amount of local donors – both corporate and individual. In order to raise more funds locally WFG faces a need to be more visible, more popular and better at delivering its message to the society. Certainly, the question of networking (formal or informal) with various agencies and institutions outside the sector becomes important.

However, one has to be very careful in choosing allies. On the one hand, forming networks with powerful religious institutions can be beneficial because of the influence they have on the formation of people’s values and attitudes – if a women’s fund manages to influence their politics, it can also influence the public attitude towards women’s rights and philanthropy issues in a particular society. On the other hand, often, especially in such conservative countries as Georgia, religious institutions’ agendas go against women’s movements’ agenda and are oppressive and limiting towards women’s freedoms and human rights. This last point is especially relevant for Georgia, because even though, officially it is a secular state, the Georgian Orthodox Christian Church has an unquestioned power and authority, has major influence on politics, and is becoming increasingly fundamentalist.

Thus, despite the fact that Women’s Fund in Georgia acknowledges the importance of forming alliances outside the donor and women’s right sectors, it also acknowledges the risks associated with some of these potential alliances. The clearly feminist standpoint and the social change oriented vision of the fund do not allow us to collaborate with a fundamentalist religious institution that preaches sexism, homophobia and misogyny. Having said this, WFG is still open and searching for progressive religious leaders to start a constructive alliance.

Mariam Gagoshashvili, Program Coordinator
Women’s Fund in Georgia

Tblisi, Georgia
Women's Funding Network member since 2005

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