Bidding Tips #4 – Writing

Writing is easy for some, difficult for others but writing winning tenders remains challenging for all!

As a result of of this let’s look at three key aspects:-

  • Style
  • Structure
  • Content

It is easy to confuse all, however, it is important to know the difference.

Writing Style

Described as the narrative aspect of the response Style is the basic component in a Bid or Tender.

To neglect style indicates loss of focus on the buyer, therefore the same style doesn’t suit every application process.

Keeping the information relevant to the reader depends of adjusting the approach to meet the buyer’s specification.

Tip 1 –

use a reflective style in responding to the opportunity. Where the specification uses very short sentences and paragraphs, few multi-syllable words and word pictures, respond in the same way.

More expansive specification content and the inclusion of reference points, data sources and guidelines does indicate the buyer is looking for synergy.

Tip 2 –

adopt “one voice” when responding. This ensures that the answers flow. Individual contributions require editting everytime.

Example:

A Construction Company requested support following 12 months of failing to secure 1 of the 30 opportunities they bid for.

We asked the Buyers for their feedback in other words we found out why specific bids failed.

Reviewing the scoring trends the same parts of the response scored poorly. Common factor two senior managers refused to allow junior staff to edit their content.

This immediately changed and they were successful.

Lesson – Carry on repeating the same error and it is the same result.

Conclusion – style counts and it takes time to master

Structure

Opportunities always arrive with clear guidance. Failing to study the guidance leads to issues with bid and tender structure.

Cataloguing or Indexing are classic issues. As a buyer it was common to have bids and tenders returned with the requests on structure, format and file attachments totally ignored.

When there are a lot of responses structural issues with bids cause them to be ignored.

Structured answers generate better scores. Where the buyer has created a composite question answer in the same order. If this requires some repetition that works.

The question has been asked in that format for a specific reason.

Consequently structure your answer:-

Tip 3 –

Statement, reason, evidence and justification statement.

This lets the Buyer know you understood the question, your reason for responding this way based on the evidence you have provided. The final statement reinforces the competence.

 Tip 4 –

Create a clear format for evidence. This ensures that the buyer gets the point. Fluid evidence reduces the potential for scoring.

Content

Verbage, redundant words and irrelevant page fillers create confusion consequently resulting in poor scoring opportunities.

Therefore, a lack of white space, total text, prevents the reader from absorbing the information and reduces the likelihood that everything is read thoroughly.

Charts for chart sake and the same with pictures fail to enhance the document. They may look pretty and break up the page. However, chose with care.

Above all use:

  • Short sentences.
  • Short papragraphs.
  • Clear answers.

Hiding the response in words is a classic content issue. Clarity, Brevity and Relevance are the best editing tools on content.

Tip 5-

Edit content with two questions – does it answer the question? is it relelvant to the response.

The bid and tender writers working with our clients ensure that the content, structure and style present the appropriate picture of competence, capacity and capability.

Tip 6 –

Consequently, word redundancy, wasted content and long paragraphs are distracting, keep it short and clear. If you can say it in 100 words then do!

Hands On workshops

Therefore the Spring Masterclasses and Tender Writing workshops are designed to explore aspects of this subject in depth. Join us for the “hands on” workshops in London, Birmingham and the South West.

Contact us for the next dates.

Further Education Funding Crisis

Further Education is suffering!

What does that really mean? Yes funding has been cut and FE Colleges are struggling because of the way they have managed their funds over the years.

Are the Independent Sector sector in the smae crisis? Yes however for a very different reason. The potential income they generate is subject to real competitive process and very stringent monitoring.

Rogues In the System

In 1991 the aim focused on occupying time and ensuring that everyone in the system was “doing something useful”.

The move to vocational qualifications had begun and the independent sector really came into its own. Providing specialist and technical training that cost the colleges too much to invest in. Or FE Colleges used to tell us at meetings and events that it wasn’t real education.

From that point something really daft happened, the sector grew without the control required. Funding focused on numbers, so there were courses where learners turned up once and left got £10 and never completed anything but the funding flowed.

This simple fraud was replaced by some staff being forced to sign documents on behalf of their learners or organisations claiming to fictional learners at bogus addresses.

The majority played by the rules, however, that minority created longterm sector problems. The sector began to attract bad publicity and it hasn’t disappeared.

Apprenticeships

Oh what a sad event the move to purposeless training for 16 to 24 year olds. Some great learning opportunities but sadly a system that would failed the qualified young person.

Some great project managed into nonexistence by the Skills Funding Agency when they took projects over from other departments.

The systemic issues begin with the Apprenticeship programme. FE Providers aren’t the right people to provide an apprenticeship, the guilds of professional bodies are. FE Colleges should provide some education within the package but they should never be responsible for the whole package.

The employer is challenged to provide some funding or support. In a system that states it is free why should an employer invest?

A Simple Adjustment

There are too many bodies, departments, colleges, agencies and monitoring bodies involved in the system. In this time of increased technology there isn’t the administrative need in most of these establishments.

Learning tracking can be done daily using well designed apps and software, money released to approved training organisations based on the tracking tools.

OfSted and OFQUAL plus the ESFA and the Department for Education, the repetition in this system is wasteful. Then add into the mix the all the awarding bodies. The system of qualifications accreditation can be simplified and one qualification custodian created for the integrity of learning. Cutting millions from the administrative capacity of the system.

All learners use the unique reference numbers they already have for tracking NI or Tax but don’t over complicate a simple process.

Or just scrap the whole funding process and encourage the FE sector to compete. Most Colleges will fold in months and something new, dynamic and lean will rise from the ashes. The sector needs to embrace the change and quit moaning.

The 21st Century learning is repeating the failures of of the previous 30 years.

Conclusion

Having worked in and outside the sector for over 30 years it is clear that the system is broken. Learners and tutors suffer, there is sufficient money in the system and excess capacity.

So let the competition streamline the sector. Force the FE Colleges to compete for every £, no ring fencing and remove the failed Charters.

Education has become a pool for stagnation, HE is all about the money and schools are being squeezed by the funding structure.

It is probably time to think again. We don’t need massive buildings to teach subjects that induviduals don’t want to learn. Close the FE buildings and open up high street learning shops. Put the financial value in the hands of the learner.

Subsidise qualifications if necessary but only as the learner walks through the door.

Technology has the capacity to achieve all of this.

FE Colleges are dinosaurs in a modern learning environment.

Debates and questions in the house present politicians with an opportunity to say the sector needs more money but really it needs to change.

Bidding Tips #3 – Research

Bid Research has two elements:

  1. Find funders
  2. Funded Projects 

Funding Cloud

Research the Public Databases

The common approach is approach the known funding providers, Trusts and Foundations supporting a sector. It is successful!

However, more information is contained in the data with an alteration to research approach.

Charities, Trusts and Foundations want to be found. They expect to be approached. The art is in the selection process.

Search the formatted data using keywords, grant values and other filters to reduce the time spent is valuable.

However, experience demonstrates that sometimes the data isn’t complete.

Therefore, expansive filters and focus on your beneficiaries to get the most out of the database.

The alternative process.

Create your own list of preferred funders. The Charities Register is a public database and every charity is required to register. Therefore, you have access to every local and regional organisation linked to your community.

Start the search based on locality.

Review every local Charity and isolate all those with grant making powers.

Sort with three fields:

  1. Funders
  2. Potential Partners
  3. Other

 

Review the list of Trustees and look for people you know. It is productive.

Also by reviewing the information funding activities in your community are a potential source of income.

For example: A Sailing Skills Charity held an annual dinner. Another charity looking to fundraise locally looked at how they could add value to the event. The outcome created a 30% funding boost.

Funded Projects

Few Grant Making Trusts and Foundations wish to remain annonymous, therefore, the local research highlights which Charities are investing in the local community.

Additionally encouraging the expansion the footprint in an area of benefit for a grant making body is appealing for a variety of reasons. Learn to exploit the opportunities.

The Funders provide lists of projects, review the projects in detail, look at all published documentation. Once you identify the trend in funding – the similarities it becomes clear where the application is focused.

A volunteer spending 2 hours per week completing this research broadens the potential funding base.

Conclusion

Consequently, a professional fundraiser uses solid reseach to limit the number of wasted applications. Making the time spent fundraising count! If 20% of the time is researching funders that is time well used.

All of the information is in the Public Domain, however knowing where to start is one issue, the thought that is costs to engage a fundraiser is another and making all the count can perplex Trustees.

Remember, funding research is never wasted. Use the networking, partnering and information to support future bids. However, more importantly, raise money locally.

We will be producing newsletters and blogs dedicated to Fundraising, an introduction for beginners and running events, masterclasses, posting videos for those wanting more support.

Contact us 

Further Education – Funding

UK Further Education funding is a strange culture.

The provider needs to understand they are a business, therefore, avoiding unnecessary risks by management teams. 

Retail in contrast

At the local takeaway , I noticed that cameras were directed at the customers and the staff. The owner sent a clear message “this business is monitored!”

An overt and sensible approach. We expect that level of scruntiny in that type of workplace. 

Further Education

However Further Education providers appear to accept much activity on trust. 

The average learner has a cash value.  

The provider asks staff and subcontractors to complete the learning package. Self assessment and form filling is a primary tool. 

The rest is taken on trust. This is unsustainable.

This is a recipe systemic abuse. The results speak loudly. Providers fail audits because the core evidence is missing.

Time to change

Prevention is the First Step

Prevention of systemic abuse by providers is the goal. However, a recent monitoring visit highlighted:

  1.  The failure to use technology
  2. Poor monitoring of staff
  3. Poor internal auditing systems
  4. Lack of fraud prevention tools

This demonstrated that the Directors failed to understand the importance prevention. The process of their product enables staff to take short cuts. 

As both and Assessor and Tutor it has always been clear to me that time was the enemy. They are pressured to get the learners through quickly. This creates issues.  

So the first duty of the FE provider is to prevent systemic abuse.

Funding Body Pressure

The College or small provider is also pressured by the funding body.  The funding system is skewed. It fails to treat the providers as businesses.

To eat the takeaway we must first pay for it.

To engage a training provider the funder uses instalments. In arrears. Payments include an outcome component paid much later.

This model lends itself to exploitation and corruption. 

The immediate answer alternative payment models. Use technology, direct learner linked transfers.

Offer a simple pay you learn system. 

Consequently it is the Funding body payment arrangements that create the systemic pressure. Use a prevention model to remedy the issue. 

The Conclusion

30 years in Adult education and things don’t change. Therefore, create at least two alternative strands of unrestricted income. 

FE providers are businesses. Therefore, the product demands protection. Additionally,directors must build the safety measures into day to day activities. 

Staff and the learners know the value of the product, consequently they expect you to protect it. 

Make learning count, therefore, appreciate quality of teaching. Remember that further education is a business.  

Services and Support

Therefore, we provide:

  • education funding services;
  • business support;
  • education compliance support; 
  • quality system development;
  • prevention tools;
  • Robust audit systems;
  • Create strong income streams; and 
  • Advice 

Contact the team for more information and of course bid writing support. 

Fundraising Tips #2 – Credibility

Credibility requires openness, evidence and engagement.

The successful “Ask” needs supporting information. To “Ask” without credible evidence is high risk for low return.

Credibility Example

“Give me £10?”

“Who are you?” or “Why should I?” or “What do you want it for?” are reasonable questions when someone asks for money. The last question emphasises that even if I know you I can ask for more detail.

People ask this of friends, family and colleagues, so we rightly expect them to ask strangers and fundraisers. We should expect to provide:

  • A reason and objective
  • Logical evidence to support claims
  • justification of request
  • Impact and benefit

Reason and Objective

Giving is a personal action. Therefore it requires a good reason. Philanthropy is still an exercise in free will and choice, therefore, be specific (give a reason), direct attention to the need or cause (objective) and ask for financial support.

Evidence

Crossing the street when we see graphic images of cruelty or stravation remains a common reaction, people turn the sound down for the television appeals. This style of evidence immmediately sifts the potential donors. Understand how the evidence you use will impact your target donor.

The decision about what constitutes effective evidence is improtant. It needs to aid understanding, therefore stirring an emotional reflex that becomes a call to action.

Justification

Just because I think its a “Good Cause” isn’t justification.

Rational thinking underpins giving, so we need to isolate the specific reasons individuals will give to this appeal and then provide the justification. This needs to be set in context, local, regional, national, gender specific, sector of society or the international concern.

The closer to the individual the more likely they are to give.

For example:

A local park had an outline planning application for development. Local residents were outraged and a public meeting was called. Hundreds turned up.

Good for organisers because they wanted to mount a compaign to stop the development, however, only 10 local properties were affected, three of them businesses. The land in the park was not used and therefore the interest raised by the campaigners quickly wained. The reason, the campaigners had presented justification for the meeting but it didn’t stand up to scrutiny of the rational thinking residents. 

The evidence also failed although it appeared compelling when presented. Zero income became the outcome of the appeal.

   Justification should stand up to external scrutiny. Test your evidence and reasoning one random individuals before launching an appeal.

Impact and Benefit

“Your £10 achieves this!” This approach works because the donor understands that their funding makes a difference (impact) at a personal level. Also when they percieve the changes in individual circumstances this automatically builds the sense of legacy (benefit). That is why so many TV appeals use the approach. Remember in a couple of minutes a great deal can be conveyed.

Script the impact and benefit statements, support it with written information and ensure that it requires the potential donor to act immediately, (Yes or No).

Conclusion

Fundraisers know a successful credible well prepared and well presented appeal needs effective planning. Every successful fundraiser  presents a credible reason for asking.

Contact us for more Tips and support.

Fundraising Tips – #1

Funding Cloud Fundraising is the greatest challenge all not for profit, voluntary and charity organisations daily. We hear the stories of great projects and support programmes losing funding and closing their doors. The simple reason is there are so many good causes and not enough funds to go around. 

I began working on all types of fundraising activities in my teenage years. Quite by accident – I had an idea, the event organiser said “Yes – if you can find a sponsor”. Everyone said it would be difficult but it wasn’t, I just asked business owners to help. I ended up with more money than I needed and it went to the organiser.

From that point forward, I was hooked.

Tip #1 – Ask

Luke FitzHerbet (former Director DSC – deceased) frequently explained that the Ask is critical. 

Three points in creating the “Ask”:

  1. Make it clear you are asking
  2. Tell the whole truth – why the money is needed now!
  3. Explain how they will see the impact

Learning ask effectively is important. It is worth practicing! The Fundraising workshops we run focus on the practical elements of preparing to ask, asking and reptition. There aren’t specific rules in the face to face encounter, however, it is important that you know how the money is going to be used.

When approached in the street or at the door I always ask the fundraiser to explain how my donation is divided up. They are often paid, so how much of my donation goes to the company that is paying them? Who are the other recipients before the final beneficiary? This often presents a problem! Coming unprepared means they leave with nothing.

Fundraising Event – Asking  

The bucket gets passed around and everyone is expected to drop money in for the charitable cause. Consequently, guests are intimidated into giving. However, the cause may not be mentioned but it should be clear to everyone where the funds are going.

The Event Ask requires greater transparency. So again make it clear that you are asking not demanding, not looking to embarrass them into giving. Treat the donors with the dignity and respect you want the beneficiaries to be shown. 

Conclusion

Fundraising can be fun. Therefore, it should be productive and it must be fully accountable.

Getting the Ask right is a simple step to fundraising success. 

Bid and Trust  based fundraising requires the same approach to Asking. Contact the Tender Management team for more details of our training workshops, fundraising support and event management services.  

Consultancy Logo

Social Care the solution not the problem

The Social Care problems are not the cause of NHS bed blocking, these are the result of the failing Care Sector! The Media hype identifies Social Care as the pinch point for service strain. The problem is elsewhere.

Local Authorities point a lack of affordable Care and the quality of Care is their primary concern.

An article Published in the Guardian Newspaper last November pointed to the 380 Care Homes that had filed for bankruptcy since 2010.

Removing that capacity from the marketplace must have a real knock-on effect. If only 60% of those client spaces were occupied, we must ask where did they go? All existing capacity is absorbing the increased demand; so what happens when people are moved on? Who picks up the strain?

The Economics

Economic Theory presents the idea that if there are limited opportunities for a scarce product or resource the supplier can name the price.

Social Care doesn’t work like that. The local Authority sets the limits on what is paid for and the system then bids for the person. Have you ever been to a cattle market? Generally, it is the best value bid that wins but in the Social Care field we have the indignity of “how cheaply” can these services be provided?

Obviously, a flawed system because it attracts low quality services and keeps the CQC busy.

So, price comes before the person. How can this be acknowledge and adjustments made in a business to ensure service viability? 

The price pressure is known. The demand for person centred care is made clear and speed is critical. This structure of allows for innovation. The Care Provider in 2019 will have to change, so if that’s you drive the changes. 

We win contracts for Care providers, as part of the process we analyse as much of the business as a client wants us to see, however, the product of this process creates opportunities for innovation, collaboration and value for money improvements. Contact the Tender Management or Social Care links to find out more. 

The Social Care Provider

Is regulation and intimidation really the only solution? Should the sector let the CQC weed out poor providers and let the local authorities squeeze the prices as hard as they can? Who knows but it is clear that a Care provider can lead the way by demonstrating they are willing to blend their care package.

The ideal solution is the Care provider becomes the conduit to universal and bespoke support for the individual client. Rather than limiting the service this opens the opportunities for greater resource deployment. The notion that because a business is making a profit that it is unfit to provide care is bias. Social Care providers are a necessary product to meet the growth in an aging population. 

The accepted facts are that we will need more social care employees than teachers with an aging population.

Hourly rates rise due of labour costs and core business costs. To meet this progression the Care provider needs to increase the value for money.  This becomes an incentivised structure local funding bodies could pay rates linked to value for money and access to additional resources.

In Conclusion

The solution, be a gateway to extended services! Care needs to embrace change that includes the NHS

Employ an innovative approach to accessing more support for the client, develop a wider network in your local community.