I recently wrote about the need for bid writing to be a collaborative process and for some organisations, this may have served to further problematise an already challenging process.
However, in defence of bids and tenders, they do have a wonderful by-product which can help to overhaul professional practice.
In the social business arena, bids and tenders often ‘speak into’ current issues and/or regulatory demands and as such, provide an up-to-date contextual reality-checker for organisations. Commissioners will often endeavour to integrate as many regulatory factors as they can, especially in tenders, so that the contractual framework ensures an obligation for providers to be compliant.
In relation to tenders, I always have a notebook open at the ready, at the ‘reading stage’, to compose a list of items needed, such as policies, etc (although some commissioners kindly supply a checklist)*.
Often, the policy request is different to that which an organisation has, so a bid may ask for one policy that covers ‘a,b,c’ and the organisation may have this as three separate policies. In the early days of my bid writing career, I would dutifully oblige, making policy adjustments accordingly. The problem with this, is the next bid may ask for three separate policies! So this is not a viable foundation upon which to make business decisions.
Indeed, I remember almost ten years ago, one of my doctoral research collaborators (interviewees) warned of the danger of “chasing funding bids” in the form of totally galvanizing the whole organisational approach! I concur and nowadays, I am more inclined to clearly convey in the submission, that the organisation has the information and does what is required and that it is constructed in a different way to what is requested.
In any case, outside of the opportunities for contractual commissioning and/or additional funding, when taken as a frame of reference, the requests of the tender or bid offers a useful strategic planning tool, in the following five ways:
- Providing a snapshot outlining current challenges, significant regulatory requirements and a way of self-assessing the organisation and identifying gaps and development areas.
- Providing a ‘sneak peak’ at expected forthcoming strategic considerations, concepts and development areas, to be integrated into organisational policy and practice.
- Outlining how legislation may be translated into practice – demystifying some of the reams of text presented elsewhere (and the financial costs of attending events intending to do the same).
- Encouraging organisations to revisit their brand, their values, their ethos and how these are pitched and to re-energise commitment to the service offering. By using the tender/bid method statements, organisations are able to consider the service from other perspectives, perhaps shifting from inward-looking, including that of people who use services.
- Develop new service offerings and projects. Sometimes, leaders sit with ideas, or they are bandied around in meetings but do not materialise. The idea of a pot of funding, or to be competitive in a tender submission and having to consider who and how, re: project management and the finer details and required capacity, can be the push that is needed to birth a concept that can really enhance the organisation.
So, there it is………
Five ways that bid and tender writing can be beneficial and I could have continued!
There is a statement often used in bid writing, which relates to no bid ever being a waste of time, whether or not it is successful. The potential for purposeful reflection is priceless and if you commission an experienced and professional bid writer, you benefit from strategic consultancy, as an inherent part of the process. What’s not to love?
*Checklists may not cover EVERYTHING, always, always, always double check that you have all that you need to fulfil the bid or tender criteria.