Location is a strong factor in whether a funding application is successful, but the detail of the application counts too.
Many apply, but few are chosen: sometimes it's near impossible to work out which application will get through a funder's hoops. But it isn't just about being in the right place at the right time. Looking for subtle indications of funders' priorities can help.
After Adoption, which supports people affected by adoption, has gone through this recently with three applications to the second round of grants from the Parenting Fund. The £16.4m fund is a Department for Education and Skills initiative, but is managed by the National Family and Parenting Institute. Round two makes grants to voluntary and community sector projects in 23 areas of England.
One of After Adoption's applications was for a project in Newcastle strengthening professional networks; another for work in Redcar and Cleveland looking at the pressures adoption puts on the "couple relationship"; and a third for a project based in Liverpool on maintaining the links between adopted children and birth relatives. The first two didn't get through; the third, for £72, 645, did - and is about to start the first of its quarterly training days for current and prospective adopters.
So why this one? The other two bids did get to panel stage, and the feedback was comprehensive. The panel felt the Newcastle project had not provided enough substantiated evidence of need, and that it hadn't set clear enough "milestones". It also felt the organisation hadn't provided enough evidence of its experience in couple counselling to support the Redcar and Cleveland bid. "The fund said this round was extremely competitive," says Louise Parry, fundraising co-ordinator at Atter Adoption. "This feedback was useful and reminds us that details can make or break decisions."
But there's also the issue of funders' other criteria - in this case, the geography. Parenting Fund director Richard Allen says frankly: "We were looking at projects area by area, and if we had several applications covering the same area, we might have had to choose between them. "
Broadly, Allen backs up Parry's point, saying: "The better your project plan, the greater your chances of success." However, as Parry adds: "It's so difficult to know where funders' priorities really lie - you're always looking for the subtext."