Proposal Writing Blog

Is that RFP winnable?

When you receive an RFP that matches your service offerings, one of the first questions you should ask is: Will I win?

Of course, there are no guarantees in life. However, responding to RFPs is time-consuming so you want to be confident that you are at least in the top three or four bidders. Bid websites often allow you to view who has downloaded the RFP so you can get a sense of which competitors may be bidding.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I better than my competitors? Naturally, everyone thinks so! But take a look at the specific requirements of the RFP and see if they match with your expertise.
  • Can I submit a competitive price? I was talking recently with an expert in the field of signage for sports events and he lamented the fact that quality costs money. Check the RFP evaluation grid to see how important low cost is in winning the bid.
  • Is there an existing vendor? Government agencies are required to issue RFPs even when they are happy with the current provider. Do some research to determine whether there have been performance issues. The odds favour the company that holds the contract, but if there have been problems it could be an opportunity.

Need help with your next proposal? We have written dozens of proposals for projects ranging from $10,000 to $5 million. Contact us for a free consultation about making your next submission a winner! We can be reached at douglasronson (at) or call 613-888-9560.

An outsider’s perspective spells success

Recently I was working with a community organization, helping them to write a proposal for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant, which ultimately resulted in $141,200 being awarded. I was thinking about why it was a winning proposal – so that I could help other groups.

First of all, Edith Rankin Memorial United Church is a terrific asset to the community. It works with groups ranging from those with special needs to seniors to the homeless. I certainly cannot claim any credit for that – it is the hard work of the people involved with the church.

My job was to convey that dedication in the application. Of course, a key responsibility was to write a compelling and clear proposal that would catch the eye of the grant reviewers. That was successful. In fact, one of the reviewers told me that it was the best written application in her many years of reviewing requests for grants.

However, I also brought an important perspective to the application. I am not a member of the congregation and this allowed me to take an outsider’s view. Most critically, I put myself in the shoes of the Trillium Foundation – what were the reviewers looking for? As a result, I was able to leverage the key community activities of the church to build a powerful application.

An outsider’s perspective could make a huge difference for your organization. Send me a note and let’s set up a time to chat.

“The agency emailed me the RFP. Does that mean I will win?”

This is one of the most common questions that I receive about Requests for Proposals. A client will call me, excited by the fact that a government agency or business has contacted them and asked them to submit a proposal in response to an RFP.  Often, the client thinks that they are the preferred candidate.

Maybe or maybe not.

It is definitely a good sign that the issuer of the RFP has contacted you. It means that they think you are qualified to submit a bid. However, it does not mean that you are a shoe-in.

You have to consider the RFP from the issuer’s perspective. In order to be able to evaluate proposals and compare prices, the agency will want to see three or four bidders. That is why they will email the RFP to several potential bidders, in addition to posting it on a bid site such as MERX.

When you receive an RFP by email you need to conduct the same due diligence as you would if you found it on MERX. You should determine whether you meet all of the requirements in the RFP. If possible, find out who your competitors will be – and decide whether you have a winning bid against them.

Good luck with your next proposal!

Doug Ronson