On 1st November I gave a talk on bid writing skills and techniques and held a number of confidential one to one ‘surgeries’ at the Big Lunch Extra Wolverhampton Roadshow.
Big Lunch Extra is part of a wider Eden Project three-year programme to help individuals across the UK create positive change within their communities, through starting a community initiative or taking their existing project(s) to the next level. Roadshows are a full weekend of events, presentations and workshops designed to help attendees fulfil the aims of their organisation, including finding and applying for funding.
Yeah but Lyndsey, you don’t DO funding
This is true. BLE already gives participants a lot of advice and guidance around how to find the right fund(s) for their projects and, to date, I have actively avoided venturing into that arena for a variety of reasons.
However participants attending the roadshow actually represented a mixture of community groups, social enterprises and community interest companies (CICs). Some of the attendees were looking strictly for funding help, while others had grown their organisations to a point where undertaking service contracts represented a key next step for their continued success.
Funding Vs. Tendering – what’s the difference?
The differences between funding and tendering are found predominately (although not solely) in the areas of ‘pre-submission’. That is, finding, evaluating and selecting a suitable fund or grant for your organisation requires a different mind-set and list of priorities than does finding, evaluating and selecting a suitable contract to tender for.
This is one of the key reasons I generally stick to tenders rather than funding: to do both well – and keep up to date with all the funds, grants AND tenders across the EU – I would need the brain capacity of an elephant. And while I may be brilliant, super intelligent and, obviously, so very humble and modest 😉 , focusing on one side is better all round for me and my clients.
How are they similar?
The similarities come in once the ‘finding, evaluating and selecting’ decision has been made. When a blank funding or grant application form is sitting in front of you, mocking you with its overly complicated questions and baffling terminology, it starts to look very similar to a tender invitation, including the issues that tend to crop up:
- Understanding what they are asking for (and where to go for help)
- What to say (and what not to say)
- Providing evidence
- Structuring answers to the questions
- Writing to word limits
- Writing a gripping overview
On the day
There was no way that I could teach a room full of people 20+ years’ worth of writing experience, so to make the most of the 25 or so minutes I had for the presentation, I asked participants two weeks before the day what they hoped to learn. I used their suggestions as a basis for the talk, focusing on providing simple, quick, tried and tested techniques relating to the most essential areas they wanted to know about.
For the rest of the day, I holed up in an (extremely!) well lit private room and held a number of 20-minute, one to one surgeries, where participants could talk to me in confidence about their projects and discuss ideas and options for revenue and funding.
I’ve since had some very good feedback and there’s a possibility that I may be invited to talk at future weekend roadshows, which is a nice confident boost. I’d like to also say a big thank you to Steph and James Clarke, BLE members who organised the Wolverhampton roadshow and invited me to speak, and to Christine Sefton, Big Lunch’s Community Catalyst, for her support and encouragement. Steph and James are behind WV11.co.uk, a volunteer run, award-winning website dedicated to covering community news and events in and around Wednesfield, Wolverhampton and were instrumental in the redevelopment of a former youth centre building into The Hub at Ashmore Park, which now holds a community centre, library and fitness centre and offers a wide range of additional facilities to local people.
It was a lot of fun and good to meet some very interesting and passionate people doing some very good stuff for their communities.
It’s also started me thinking about how I might be able to diversify the services I offer, to include more teaching, troubleshooting and one-to-one guidance, in addition to providing bid writing and its associated services.
Whatever I decide, I’m pretty sure it will be another remote service – I don’t mind the ‘standing up and talking to a bunch of people’ bit (nerves notwithstanding) but committing to a number of full days out of the office would inevitably cut into the time I can spend at my computer actually writing bids, which is my ‘bread and butter’. Time to get my thinking cap on!
What other services would you like to see?
Alongside providing flexible bid writing services, what would help your company become more effective at tendering?
Would you be interested in:
- Interactive live webinars (I do hate that word but there’s not really a better one)
- Online presentations
- Structured learning plans (for you and/or your staff) with key aims in mind
- ‘Surgery’ style troubleshooting for specific issues – one-to-one or conference mode, via Skype or similar
Any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments.