Make it easy on yourself - bidding for contracts

I was on a training course this week about preparing bids for statutory grants and tenders. A lot of the focus was on thinking about it from the ‘other side’ – the procurement officers and commissioners who assess applications coming from voluntary and community organisations.
It was really interesting to think about these applications from the assessor’s side and the way that bids and tenders are scored. Even though you may already be delivering a service, if you are applying for a new contract you’ll have to demonstrate you’re best placed to deliver it again. Assessors in public bodies make decisions based on value for money (which doesn’t just mean the cheapest price!) and, while a good track record will go in your favour, if another organisation can show better value for money for the service users and the council commissioning the service, then they’ll have the contract awarded to them.
This brought to mind a lot of enquiries and questions we receive in the Compact Advocacy Programme, from organisations who look like losing funding for a service because they didn’t win a contract, and who want to challenge it using the Compact. While the Compact can help in ensuring a good relationship between public bodies and voluntary organisations, we must recognise that public bodies have the right to make their own decisions on policy and funding.
Yes, these policy decisions must be informed by adequate consultation and have the involvement of voluntary organisations, and a proper and timely process should be followed in making funding decisions. But once those applications are submitted, it’s up to the public body to decide based on the information they’ve received.
While the Compact can’t explicitly guarantee your funding or service will be continued, there are however some things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position.

  • Communicate early with the funder – if you know they’re looking at commissioning a service then make sure you can feed into that process, and check any consultation is Compact compliant.
  • Make sure you can demonstrate the unique benefit your organisation brings – such as enabling access to groups that commissioners might otherwise never reach - and how you provide value for money. If it’s not in your application then public bodies can’t score you on it!
  • Engage actively in policy development, involve your service users and beneficiaries, and make sure all your information and research is both accurate and credible.
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