Are you new to the world of writing bids, and are looking for some advice on how to write a successful, winning bid?
If so, we’ve compiled a list of 11 top tips for bid writing.
The following tips are mainly applicable to those of you who are putting together funding applications for grants, and some are also useful if you’re preparing tenders to win contracts to deliver services.
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Let’s move onto the first tip right away.
1. Ensure your organisation is eligible to bid
This bid writing tip might seem obvious. However, it’s important raise it, as people still go ahead and write proposals and bids, and even end up submitting them, only to find out later they were ineligible to apply.
Therefore, before you commit any time to preparing a bid, read the eligibility notes to ensure you can bid in the first place. Such notes will tell you what types of organisations the funder is accepting proposals from. For example, if your organisation is a unregistered voluntary group, and the guidance notes say the funder is accepting bids from organisations, then you’re then eligible to bid, at least in terms of organisational eligibility.
The next thing to check is whether the funding available can be used to cover the costs of what you need the money for. For example, if you need to cover the costs of staff salaries, but this isn’t an example of an eligible cost for a particular funder, you need to look elsewhere. Hence, read the eligible and ineligible costs notes carefully.
So, you’ve read all the eligibility requirements and you’re good to go?
Wait just one moment.
Two pairs of eyes are better than one. Ask a colleague to also look over the eligibility criteria to double-check that you haven’t missed reading something, which would make your bid ineligible. The chances are this won’t be the case, but there’s no harming in making sure.
Also, checking whether your organisation is eligible, and whether the costs you’re going to incur could be covered by a grant, is just as simple as putting in a phone call to the funder, speaking to the funding manager in charge and asking.
2. Have a realistic project
This point is all about being firmly grounded in relation to a bid you want to submit. For example, let’s say you want to develop a local community hub offering employability skills to underrepresented young people. Yes, your vision might be to franchise your idea in different parts of the country. However, the funding agency you want to target will want to see a well-defined project that has outcomes and outputs that can be achieved within a set timeframe which could be by the end of 12 or 24 months, for instance.
Give the funder what they want.
Start off small. Create a project, which funders can visualise as being achievable. Setting clear objectives, which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time dependent (SMART) can be a great start to develop a realistic project. This doesn’t mean losing sight of the goal though. That’s still on the horizon and you will achieve it. However, a step- by-step approach will get you there and the use a funding opportunity can help enable one further step towards the end goal.
3. Develop a strong concept
What makes a strong concept you might ask?
It begins with your identifying a problem that remains unsolved.
Let’s use an example:
The problem is dog poop bags and the odour of the poop inside the bags after dogs have done their business. Now, such dog poop bags exist. However, anyone who has dogs knows that odour can still emanate from such bags. Now, if your bag solves this problem in an even better way, then that is your solution to an unsolved problem.
And what will add even more weight to your argument about why your solution is the best thing since sliced bread?
It is demonstrating that you’ve done your homework. This means thoroughly research existing doo poop bags, and illustrating why the problem still exists.
And this then ties into another key aspect about your concept.
Is it a new one? In order words is it innovative?
Now, the truth is that whether your solution needs to be innovative is something you can establish when you’re doing your initial preliminary investigation around whether you’re eligible to apply or not. Some funders won’t fund ‘me too’ type projects, whereas others will. If innovation is a criterion for the funder, then certainly your concept needs to be doing something differently like in the dog poop bag example.
Or there might not be any need for innovation in the solution you’re proposing.
For instance, you might be bidding to deliver services as a part of a contract. But remember, your bid still needs to captivate the imagination of your readers. Therefore, it’s important to think about how your organisation is going to deliver the contract in a different way. For example, if your organisation is an IT supplier, then your business might be able to offer a more fully comprehensively IT support infrastructure than your competitors.
And if you’re bidding for a local authority contract, or a regional or national contract, don’t forget about really thinking through how your solution aligns with the issues the funder is looking to address. If you’re unable to do so, then this could also be a sign of an early show stopper. If you can though, then map out exactly how your organisation, the problem you’re solving and your solution is a complete match to what the funder’s goals are.
4. Put together a bid team
It’s always useful to have team working on a bid. Writing a bid individually can be a mammoth task and the task becomes even bigger when the amount of funding or size of your contract is worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds. However, building a team isn’t just about taking the burden off you as a bid writer. No, it is actually to help develop a strong coherent bid.
For example if you’re bidding for funding to develop a new product, you may need to demonstrate your organisation’s technical capabilities to develop a robust solution and also to illustrate the commercial impact your product has in terms of generating revenue and profit. In such a situation, having a technical consultant and a sales consultant as part of a bid team to provide input in the form of conversations, ideas and even writing parts of the bid can be invaluable.
5. Have a risk management strategy in place
What are the risks involved with your project?
The risks could be with regards to technical implementation of your product or service. What is your contingency plan for a scenario where your product doesn’t perform as planned? There could be income generation risks. For example what will happen if you don’t end up taking the market share you want to?
By creating a risk register as a part of the bid writing exercise, not only are you demonstrating to the funder that you’re aware that your project can never be perfect, yet you have the plans and systems in place to deal with them, you’re also making life easier for the delivery team of your bid as they’ll be able to expand upon the risk register and make use of it to monitor active risks during the duration of the project.
6. Demonstrate the sustainability of you project
Funders want to see bids that outline how a project is going to be able to maintain itself once the funding runs out, in order to continue making an impact and become even more successful. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you explain exactly how you will make this happen. This part of the bid usually comes at the end. However, this doesn’t make it any less important.
Really think through about the different and realistic ways you can sustain activities, either through reinvesting initial profit used from sales (if your project involves introducing a new product, or service), selling into other markets, applying for further public funds, or attracting private investment. The more detailed you can make this description (e.g. by articulating any discussions you’ve had with potential future partners even at this early stage), then so much the better.
7. Write the bid in simple language
Using complex jargon and acronyms to impress the funder is not going to help your cause. Rather than impressing, this will just confuse. Instead, keep your language clear and write concisely.
How do you write clearly?
One bench make to use is to consider whether a 10 year old would be able to understand your words. If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right tracks.
And what makes concise bid writing?
Try this for an exercise:
Write a paragraph about your project of 4 – 6 sentences long. Once you’ve done this, reread what you’ve written and try and get the message across in 2 sentences.
8. Sell the benefits of your project
This point is related to the previous one.
At its core, your bid is a sales document and in this particular document, a funder will be more interested in how your project benefits others beyond just your organisation and its partners. This is where alignment to the aims of the funders comes to the fore again. Be very specific here and illustrate why your project is absolutely needed now.
Be emotive in your writing to demonstrate the depth of the problem that you’re trying to address so that you attract the attention of the funder and they can start to empathise. Back up statements you make with credible facts and figures, and then present your solution enthusiastically, describing how it alleviates the problem in ways, which others cannot, in order to inspire the funder to take action through supporting you and your project to become a reality. For example, if your project addresses crime within your locality, find the figures to illustrate the scale of the problem. And if your solution is going to help reduce tax payers’ money, give scenarios of how the use of your solution would reduce costs.
9. Identify how the project will be managed
A good bid always has a project management structure in place. With your team, think about exactly how you will implement the project once you’ve won the contract and create a timetable, fully complete with milestones of when key parts of your project will be completed by, and the deliverables and outputs that will be achieved.
It’s important to also develop a project implementation team that is led by a competent Project Manager who can oversee the entire project and can monitor how well the project is delivering its outcomes and outputs. Also, ensure you’ve got other relevant roles in place, which will vary depending on the nature of your project; these could range from having technical managers, to marketing managers, project assistants and exploitation managers.
Also, when creating your project plan, this is also the stage to list the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you will use to track whether your project is making progress as expected. The creation of KPIs can also be governed by requirements of the funder. For example, if your project involves helping people gain work experience opportunities, and the funder will release funds based upon how many people you help find employment experience every quarter, then the number of individuals you’re able to get through your programme every quarter into work experience would be a KPI.
10. Determine costs involved with your project
Your project needs to be appropriately costed and explained in your bid. Work out all the costs involved, and those costs which you require funding for. Costs could be to cover capital expenses such as materials, equipment and stock, while revenue costs could include things like the cost of marketing activities or paying for contractors.
Funders will look for a budget that realistically covers the costs of carrying out of the project you’re proposing. Ensure you get appropriate quotes in order to make your budget as accurate as possible. Make the budget too low for your aims, and funders will question your ability to cost your project properly. However, if your budget is too high, then funders will see through this swiftly. A good way to ensure you submit a balanced budget goes back to your bid team – have a financial expert on your team to check over your budget, or better still, create one for the bid.
11. Submit correct documents with your bid
Nearly all types of bids will require the submission of supporting documents. Bids can be rejected by funders just on the basis of missing documents, or the submission of incorrect documents. For example, if you’re a large organisation whose subsidiary is making an application for funding, and if the funder requires you to submit the full accounts of the parent company, ensure you do this. Also, if the funder asks for bank statements as PDF files, send them in the required format and not as images.
Do you have any tips for bid writing you would like to share? Please tell us in the comments box below!
Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of Writing Tips Oasis.