Updated: Oct 23
With tenders, people either know and understand how they work or don't have a clue. When I first started writing tenders, I thought they were the same as writing a grant. This is definitely not the case.
People who write tenders know it's a relationship game. Sometimes you can work hours on a tender and be a perfect match, but still be unsuccessful. Often an organization will put a job, service or program up to tender already knowing who they are planning to choose, and this is before they even receive any submissions. This is why connecting with the contact or someone in the organization is essential. You need to get a feel for their interest and what is going on inside before wasting time on a submission.
This is not to say that the writing is not essential to the application. I have had two experiences where things went wrong because of the writing. Once I connected with an organization before the tender even released, got valid information and made a positive relationship and still wasn't successful. This was because an Executive decided they knew better and had someone else less experienced write the application. This person ended up submitting a drafted application instead of the final draft and the job was given to another organization. The second time I had completed the tender based on the information gathered and had detailed discussions with the contact, but again an Executive rewrote the submission based on what they thought was best, and it was again unsuccessful. Both times the organization who put the job up to tender would have seen how unprofessional the application was and decided we were unfit for the job.
Tenders aren't about fluffing the content and writing what you think they want to see. Its about being prepared, professional and informed. If there is an information session offered, you need to attend. This allows you to ask specific questions, connect with the contact and show your genuine interest and knowledge.
Tenders are long, detailed and unforgiving. If you don't know what you are doing, it will show and you won't be successful. You need to be connected and your submission needs to be well written, accurate, detailed and succinct. Tender writing isn't for everyone, but with the right information you can still be successful.