According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) writing a successful bid requires the following:
Treat a bid like a project! Be clear on the Inputs, the key activities, Outputs, Outcomes and anticipated Impact. What is Planned and what is Intended? What can be controlled throughout the project?
The terms “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” as used famously by Donald Rumsfeld are often used in project management and strategic planning circles. Known unknowns refers to “risks you are aware of, such as cancelled flights, risks of time slippage….” Unknown unknowns are risks that come from situations that are so unexpected that they would not be considered. Covid-19 may have been an unknown unknown to begin with. Known unknowns, on the other hand, are risks we are aware of, but cannot quantify such as personnel disputes or time slippage. Known knowns are what we hopefully use as the basis of our bid or tender but the ‘unknowns’ are those factors we need to include in a risk management strategy.
Inputs, actions and outputs can be planned and can be controlled. Outputs (usually in the form of deliverables) can be intended and controlled to some extent. Any bid or tender should clearly identify achievements that be controlled throughout the project and how time slippage can be prevented and/ or managed (this is presented in the form of a risk assessment). Outcomes and impacts are less controllable but can certainly be influenced by the project activities and actions and should be monitored throughout.
It is advisable to treat a bid like a project! Use the DPIE (Define, Plan, Implement, Evaluate) and PDCA (Plan, Do, Correct, Act) project cycles as planning tools. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is an Australian Government agency responsible for scientific research and a diagram from a publication of theirs explains a project framework and the relationship between the inputs (the resources necessary for the project), the key activities (action plan), and the resultant outputs, outcomes and anticipated Impact.
The Mid-Sussex Voluntary Action (MSVA) is an umbrella organisation for social enterprises based in the South of England. They have suggested the following shopping list for bid writing:
Here is a list of seven common mistakes when submitting a bid or tender: