When an organization needs to write a proposal, it can be for many different reasons, such as business proposals, project proposals, proposals for research funding, or non-profit organization funding, each of which require a particular focus. Today I’ll focus on writing proposals in response to a solicited request, like contract work.

It’s a common fact that all organizations need revenue, non-profits, associations and businesses. While it’s great to have repeat clients and members, there are times where organizations have to get out there and look for that work by other means and one method is by responding to a Tender, Request for Quotation, Request for Services, Request for Proposal, or the many other names these go by.

At times when an organization is provided with one of these Request documents, it can be met with some shock as to the amount of information being requested for a simple piece of work. Why so much detail? In short, some of the Requests may be from clients that use public funds and are accountable for how those funds are spent, or the client is simply seeking good value for money and are looking for evidence from organizations that their potential contractor is capable of providing the services in a manner that is of good quality and is cost effective.

So, what makes a good proposal?

Like any consumer, the client is looking for good value for the money they plan on spending. By responding to what they are looking for, or solving their problem, stated in the request in a clear manner, a well written proposal can give you the edge on the competition.

There are many areas on the internet to find information on how to prepare a proposal. For example, if you are considering preparing a proposal for the Government of Canada, you may want to check out their site at buyandsell.gc.ca on Preparing Proposals.

Let’s take a look at some of the Do’s in proposal writing:
Do read the request thoroughly to understand what the client is looking for. You need to understand where the client is coming from in their current state, their needs, and possible opportunities to provide a solution to their problem.
Do ensure the goods or services are something your organization provides. If you are looking at a Request that is asking for something you may not provide, you may have to look at sub-contracting a portion of that work (if allowable), or it may not be worth your time to respond.
Do ask questions where something is not clear, or you need information to help you prepare your proposal. These questions are helpful to the organization submitting a proposal and it may tell the client where they need to make the request clearer for all.
Do watch out for question deadlines and submission deadlines – Proposals received after deadlines are usually not allowed.
Do really take a look at the criteria in the Request. In most cases it is the criteria what your proposal will be reviewed against, so make sure to answer all parts of each criteria listed in the Request document.
Do plan ahead to make sure there is enough time not only to write the proposal, but research the Client, understand the resources you have available, and have the proposal reviewed a few other people in your organization to make sure the submission is aligned with the Request. Another pair of eyes is always good!

The obvious Don’ts are those actions contrary to the Do’s above and:
Don’t have the Client search on external links for supporting material, especially if the request states that all supporting material must be in the proposal. In many cases, information from external sources can’t be taken into consideration and proposals are reviewed as they are provided, with no opportunity to add more in later.
o Note: some exceptions may be allowable, but they will probably be stated in the Request document, if they are.
Don’t put it on your References to fill in the blanks of what should be in your proposal. If there is a request to provide references these are most likely only to verify what was stated in your proposal.

While it was mentioned above that Requests are received from clients, there are also many sites where organizations can search for potential Request documents to provide a proposal to such as MERX, Biddingo. Also check your city’s municipal, university, hospital or non-profit websites.

Best of luck in your proposal writing endeavors!

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