Top Tips on Tenders
Winning bids are not created by accident. The right bid management framework and good preparation can turn your results around, enabling you to achieve your growth plans without taking on unacceptable levels of risk.
Organisational strategy is central to any Tender and Grant Application Framework and should guide the decision to pursue (or not pursue) new funding opportunities. Many good organisations fail to grow or retain market share because they haven’t clearly articulated, tested and resourced their growth strategy. For some organisations, growth targets mean expansion of the customer base, geographical footprint, product range or revenue; for others, it may mean securing a niche market and continuously improving. Whether you are large or small, for-profit or not-for-profit, the ability to clearly identify customer needs and differentiate yourself from the competition with a unique value proposition is essential in a competitive market. Given the rapid changes within aged care, disability and social services, it is wise to monitor emerging opportunities and risks, and revisit strategies regularly.
Figure 1 Components of a Tender and Grant Application Framework (Helen Wilson, 2016)
Identification of Opportunities
Once you have described your growth strategy, you will need to set up a mechanism to predict and track opportunities as they arise. This may include a calendar of relevant requests for tenders and grant funding, as well as a business development plan to create unique opportunities to submit proposals. You might also register to receive email notifications of tenders/grants in your areas of interest with the Australian Government Tender System. Other options include subscriptions to newsletters of relevant government departments and funding bodies.
A standardised decision-making process is essential to good governance of the tender/grant application function. A small panel of key decision makers and subject matter experts is an ideal forum to evaluate the business case, with the support of a decision checklist and criteria. Such discipline results in tender activities that are aligned with your organisation’s strategy, as well as your core competencies, resources, risk appetite, financial/investment objectives and brand.
Once you’ve decided to tender, you will need a tender plan which outlines the steps, responsibilities, milestones, timeframes and submission details (due date and time, method of delivery and format of documents). You will need to convince the evaluators that your bid is believable and that you are able to deliver the specified outcomes and value for money. This requires evidence of past performance and demonstrated understanding of the environment – data, case examples, awards won, audit reports, testimonies, consultation reports – as well as an innovative, evidence-based service model and/or product. It can be tricky to gather all this information on the fly, so the best solution is to gather information routinely, that can be compiled when required.
High quality tender writing requires a team approach. Many organisations engage a professional writer to ensure responses are tailored to the criteria, are clear and concise. Responses must incorporate sector-specific knowledge and links to current policy and practice. If there is a word limit, observe it strictly and choose your words with care – otherwise evaluators may stop reading and miss your key arguments.
Finally, after every tender/grant application process there should be an objective and fearless evaluation of the process undertaken and the outcomes achieved. This is necessary to strengthen and improve future bids. Even when a bid has been successful, there is always value in continually improving the product or process to remain at the forefront in a competitive market.
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