Government publishes tips for charities on winning public contracts

20 Jan 2021 News

Charities bidding for public contracts should emphasise their ability to bring value for money, quality and social value to the process, according to government guidance.

The recommendations were made in a blog by Claire Dove, the crown representative working as an intermediary between government and the charity sector, outlining ways that charities can work with Whitehall.

It was published to coincide with the introduction of the new Social Value Model for public commissioning.

Dove used the guide to warn charities against complacency when tendering for contracts, arguing that “no matter how good you are, you will not win in a competition unless you make your strengths clear in the assessment”.

Charities 'ideally placed' to deliver services

Dove said that the “expertise of charities, public service mutuals and social enterprises (VCSEs) means they are often ideally placed to help create compassionate, responsive and efficient public services”.

She wrote: “Central government has committed to diversify its supply chains. 

“We have also committed to ensuring contracts are awarded on the basis of more than just price, but a supplier’s social impact too, giving VCSE organisations much deserved recognition for their positive actions in society. 

“VCSEs can have real impact in public sector procurement. This is why we have changed the way we buy goods and services to help more VCSEs and small and medium-sized enterprises s to bid for our contracts.” 

These changes, introduced under a new model announced last year, include requiring all government departments to explicitly include social value in all major new procurements; abolishing some of the bureaucracy which came with tendering for smaller public sector contracts; and enduring that every organisation in a supply chain is paid within 30 days.

Tips for tenders

When looking at contract opportunities, Doves urged charities to “take the assessment of your tender seriously. 

“Understand that no matter how good you are, you will not win in a competition unless you make your strengths clear in the assessment”.

One of Dove’s tips is for charities to “always use plain English”, by using short sentences and paragraphs in their bids.

She also said organisations should ensure they use correct grammar and spelling “so that buyers don’t start to question your accuracy and attention to detail”.

Other tips included allocating a member of staff to search for contract opportunities at least twice a week, researching the government department tendering the contract, and using any feedback from unsuccessful tenders in future bids. 

A new social value framework

All central government contracts valued at more than £10,000 are advertised on the contracts finder online portal.

Charities do not need to register to search the portal, which provides details on who is offering the contract, its value and scope, and whether the contract is available to voluntary organisations or social enterprises.

The prime minister Boris Johnson announced a revamped system for social value contracting last September, when he promised that the system would draw “on the best models of local procurement” and “level the playing field for small business and social enterprises so they can win more contracts from government”. 

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