HOW TO TENDER - What Charities need to know

Posted: 27th November 2015

Should I? Or should I not? That is the first question in approaching a Tender invitation.

Cranfield Trust Projects Manager for the Midlands, Trevor Kitching, devlivers a masterclass on how to tender, sharing words of wisdom and excellent tips for writing a successful bid.

To help answer this here are some considerations:

  • Cost of Bidding – your time and resources and lost opportunities
  • Chances of Success – capacity and capability to do the work. Perceptions (theirs about you!) Quality of your relationship.
  • Likely profitability / impact of the project
  • Fit with your strategy

So you have decided to respond to a tender invitation.  Don’t just read it…analyse it.  With your highlighter in hand go through and underline key words, worries, pains, risks.  Look for key themes in each section and make sure you refer back to these in your response. 

Give your colleagues another highlighter ideally in a different colour and get them to do the same just to be certain you Cranfield Trust Birmingham Masterclasshaven’t missed anything out.  As the saying goes “two (or more) heads are better than one”. 

Now, put aside the highlighters and pick up the pencil, you’re going to draw.  Start with a big blank sheet and sketch your response consider the key themes, deliverables, your resources and your offer.  Weave in constraints and possible barriers to success or bottlenecks along the road.  What’s the problem?  Who are the people and the systems?  Again share this picture with your team, add and enhance together.

Wear their shoes. If you were them, what sort of supplier would you want?  How would you want them to behave?  What competencies and track records should they have? Are you looking for any specific characteristics?  Does our organisations background and reputation fit their need?

Develop a Technical Solution.  What are the client’s real problems and key issues?  (You should have these highlighted by now).  What can you offer that meets their needs and resolves their problems?  Now how can you best present this?  Don’t be wary of using pictures and graphs, case studies and quotes.  Create your story to communicate a shared belief in the cause.

Develop a Winning Strategy.  Why should they choose you?  Draft specific strategy statements that define both; why they should choose you and how you will prove it.  Overall emphasize your strengths, minimise your weaknesses.  Also remember to play down your competitors’ strengths and highlight their weaknesses (obviously using tact, diplomacy and no names).  Describe other projects that you’ve completed in the last couple of years, listing client, location, promised and actual completion dates (and budget).

“The Battle of Hastings was in 1066”.  Obviously – everyone knows this.  It really doesn’t matter if they do or don’t there’s often a point allocated for the obvious – put it down.  Remember to tell the whole story even if it does seem obvious, all points count and one or two ‘obvious’ points may make the difference, like an exam, make sure you answer the question  – tendering is after all a competitive business.  

Looks good? Are you happy?  Is the job done?  NO!!  Review and improve.  Finally don’t forget to include any required documents and don’t be late!  Late tenders will never be considered.

If you’d like to know where to look for tenders try TED Europa and Government Contracts Finder.

 Top Ten Tips for Tendering.pdf

Thank you to Trevor Kitching our West Midlands Projects Manager for sharing his expertise and of course to Dr Angela Ellis Paine at Birmingham University Third Sector Research Centre for hosting the event.

Image of delegates at masterclass listening