In this paper we draw on the concept of governmentality to examine the relationships between donors and northern non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during moments of policy change. Our case study comes from New Zealand/Aotearoa where a change in government has seen aid policy shift from poverty alleviation to sustainable economic development. We detail three mechanisms through which the government sought to normalise this change: changes in language and fields of visibility; institutional reform; and funding delays and cuts. Far from being complete, however, we also trace how some NGOs contested the new agenda through engaging in the practice of politics and how, at least temporarily, new more politicised development subjectivities were created. While our study raises awkward questions about the autonomy of NGOs within current funding environments, we also emphasise the productive possibilities and openings that emerge as one set of development ideas and techniques, or developmentalities, shifts to another.