Governments are everywhere and they all have different rules to deal with business.
Dealing with governments is about relationships
It is the relationships that will drive any grant money or contracts your way. It’s a ‘courtship’, not a ‘speed date’. In most cases, trust drives government decisions and if you see a Tender being advertised the chances are you have already lost.
From an SME perspective, governments are starving for information about who SMEs are, how they operate and how to communicate with them. This is probably the reason most governments don’t like dealing with small organisations.
On the other hand, most businesses are not keen to want to deal with governments because of previous negative experiences and the slim pickings that they offer. Their limited time is often better spent elsewhere.
It is a shame that most politicians and bureaucrats have very little business experience and businesses could be a great help to them. Relationships with governments today don’t past the truthfulness test as there is little trust from both sides.
When applying for government grants there are a few simple things to remember to help your proposal to win, starting with making sure you aren’t late to meetings, even though they have no problem being late or cancelling meetings at the last minute.
Before you submit a proposal
- Ensure your ideas and opportunities are protected.
- Identify new products and services that will solve problems.
- Understand the government’s pain and start from there. Remember they are more interested in their problems, not yours.
- Identify clearly the frustrations, problems, wants and needs you propose to address.
- Identify the sustainable outcomes – off the shelf or by design.
- Research all relevant information, reports, scoping and other associated documents.
- Ensure your brand is represented as things escalate.
- Before you start, map your proposal to avoid getting lost.
- Understand the perception of your company and products that the government has.
Barriers to overcome
- If you are looking for a quick fix to your problems go elsewhere.
- Good companies perform well in the Government sector.
- Reputation is the key, not just price.
- Plan your entry well.
- Understand probity and protocols.
- Nurturing your relationships.
- Learning to deal with different people as they switch jobs and leave.
To ensure your proposal gets full consideration
- Deal with the government’s, perceptions, they can be real.
- Be relevant, useful, helpful accurate – content and presentation is important.
- Make sure the project fits the intent, make sure that they comply with the stated guidelines.
- Understand government people are mostly very risk
- Get in front of, not behind the process.
- Make sure your proposal is on the appropriate forms.
- Specify categories of costs to reflect the areas that funding can cover. In some cases, only actual costs are allowed.
- Keep accurate records of all interviews, expenditures and receipts.
- Prepare and submit the required number of application copies.
- Submit your application on time.
- Consider payment procedures, schedules, and partial payment schedules.
- Evaluation reports are often essential to final funding.
- Check on copyrights and credits. Check where copyright of materials is necessary and whose responsibility it is to get it.
- Note the progress and decision dates, so you can follow up as necessary. If you are rejected, try other funding sources. You could well be in the wrong department.
- You want your proposal to be packaged in a government friendly way, using government language. You might need to engage a proposal writer for this. If you are lucky some government people will help you write the proposal in the way the government likes.
- Connect the relationships between influencers, procurers, processors, end users and other people who will be involved.
- The governments don’t have ready access to commercial information, particularly about SMEs, so be prepared to make allowances.
- Focus your presentations on them, not you.
- State their problem you are addressing.
- Articulate the cause of the problem.
- Clearly set out your proposal.
- State the benefits for the government and the end
Government proposals need to be nurtured through their process.
Prepare a funding proposal plan
- Identify your organisation
- Name and contact details.
- How many people are involved with the proposal?
- When it was established.
- Where it is located.
- What is the purpose of your organisation and the proposal?
- Describe how responsibilities are distributed within your organisation.
- List the names and titles of the senior management.
- Provide the name, title, address and telephone number of the person to whom correspondence should be directed.
- Name the people who will take on the major responsibilities of the project and describe their responsibilities.
- Be prepared to submit a Business Plan and Business Model Budget for the project, eliminating sensitive material.
- Explain the details of your organisation and how it is managed
- Is it a registered charity? What is its number?
- Is it incorporated? What is its number?
- Who is eligible for membership if applicable?
- What is the procedure for becoming a member?
- Is the organisation democratically run? Are elections held annually?
- What groups are affiliated with your organisation?
- Describe what your project will do.
- Remember content is king and best expressed in government speak.
- Explain your objectives in concrete rather than general terms.
- Outline the project, how it meets a demonstrated need and what it hopes to accomplish.
- Explain the methods for evaluating the project’s progress. State the objectives in such a way as observers can see your progress and what you have accomplished and how you are meeting the milestones they wanted.
- Define the scope: local community, provincials or national.
- What are the potential implications of the project?
- Explain why your project will succeed
- Explain how you are uniquely qualified to carry out the project.
- Explain how your project is different. How does the project avoid duplicating similar projects or programs run by other organisations?
- Give the qualifications and experience of key people involved with the project to provide reasonable assurance your organisation is capable of undertaking the project.
- Name projects you have completed in the past, and indicate the outcomes and why they were successful.
- Describe what additional resources you will require.
- Name people outside of the organisation who will act as resources to your organisation.
- List other individuals or organisations supporting this or similar projects.
- Name others whose support has been requested.
- State any previous contact with the government being approached, including previous financial assistance.
- Provide a budget.
- Provide a detailed operating budget for the project showing how the money will be spent and the amount coming from all sources.
- Include the organisation’s latest audited financial statements.
- Explain any deficits in your organisation’s budget. List the specific sources of funding to cover the deficits.
- Explain where you will get funding if your project continues beyond the proposed grant period.
- Do a cost benefit analysis
- Do a cost-benefit analysis to ensure you will be meeting your financial objectives. It is easy to get carried away with the total amount of money. However, often government grants and contracts are not worthy of your best efforts, so don’t leave this until it is too late.
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In order to win government grants or contracts, you will probably have to put forward your best ideas.
When you do this you run a big risk of your ideas and opportunities being passed on to the wrong people who will discuss them with your competitors and your ideas and opportunities become part of the public domain.
There are many things that will influence the outcome of any tender or grant proposal. While the lowest tender usually wins, it is often not just about dollars and cents. Price, features, company experience, Company reputation, service quality, relationship, off the shelf versus designed and who you are dealing with in the government will all influence the final outcome.
If you are a ‘virtual’ organisation you will need to go to greater lengths to explain how you operate as their knowledge and understanding of such things will be generally poor and probably negative as they like ‘bricks and mortar’ and that governments are very risk-adverse.
Don’t let me put you off dealing with governments, but be warned it is usually very difficult for a small organisation and not always worth the effort.