Knowing how to properly manage a proposal process is almost equally as important as knowing how to develop a proposal.
The Development Team
To begin, you should put together a Proposal Development Team. This team should be made up of at least two people: One person responsible for the technical proposal (which would include the workplan, timeline, M&E plan etc.) and another in charge of creating the budget.
Ideally, however, your organization should have a larger Proposal Development Team, consisting of a finance officer (accountant or budget analyst), technical expert, human resource manager, reviewer, and proposal manager as outlined below:
- Coordinates the proposal development process
- Responsible for the submission of a responsive, winning proposal on time
- Collects budget assumptions from technical/program expert, proposal manager and others
- Develops cost proposal (budget)
- Contributes to the design of the technical strategy
- Writes some of the technical content
- Reviews staffing requirements of RFP
- Develops job descriptions
- Identifies, interviews and recruits key personnel
- Puts the proposal pieces together
- Edits the content
- Could also be a technical expert that contributes to the design of technical strategy
- Reviews proposal content
- Provides feedback and comments for improvement
It is possible for one person to take on multiple roles described above, but an organization should have staff that could fulfill the above responsibilities during a proposal development process.
Once an organization has put together a proposal development team, the next most important step is to create a Proposal Development Calendar. This calendar should demonstrate key deadlines for each component of a proposal, such as the technical drafts, workplan and timeline, M&E plan, budget etc.
When a proposal team develops a calendar, they should start with the formal proposal submission deadline and then work backwards to set all other deadlines. The proposal manager should be responsible for constantly updating the calendar during the proposal development process and ensuring that all members of the proposal development team have access to the calendar. To avoid confusion, it is key that only one person is responsible for developing and updating the calendar. Lastly, it is always a good idea to over-estimate the time it will take to complete the various components of a proposal to give your organization some cushion in case deadlines are not met.
The Review Process
Proposal Managers should always ensure that the people who will be reviewing the proposal are not part of the proposal development team. Ideally, your organization should have at least two Proposal Reviewers: one person from outside the organization (who is not from a competing organization) and a second within the organization (who is not part of the proposal development team). Reviewers should be given the RFA/P, as well as the proposal development calendar, and must be kept informed of when they will be receiving drafts and final versions of the proposal. It is helpful to provide the reviewers with guiding questions they can use to evaluate the proposal. In general, reviewers should be asking themselves the following questions when reviewing the technical and cost proposals:
- Is the technical proposal responsive to procurement or funder priorities?
- Are the vision, objectives of the project and the proposed strategies clear and coherent?
- Does the proposal demonstrate depth and knowledge of the country and technical expertise area?
- Is the proposed strategy innovative yet realistic for the situation?
- Does the proposal demonstrate convincingly that the proposed team (partners and staff) is the winning team?
- Does the management plan enable the team to achieve the strategy?
- Format and style: Is the proposal clear, concise and compelling?
- Do the costs look reasonable and realistic to achieve the project objectives?
- Is the budget responsive to the procurement requirements?
- Are there any discrepancies or omissions in the technical proposal?
- Is the budget structured according to current funder’s requirements and trends?
Lastly, the procurement will always include information on how qualified organizations should produce and submit a proposal. It is extremely important that your organization adhere to the requirements listed in the procurement. One late submission or incorrect format can lead a funder to disqualify an organization from competing in a procurement.
Each proposal manager should be responsible for developing a production check list based on the information from the solicitation. The proposal manager should go through the checklist carefully before submitting a proposal.