Why we do not take on proposal preparation less than 30 calendar days away from the deadline
Many clients ask us to take on a project with a deadline in the very near future. As much as we would like to help out, our regulations on the duration of time we allow for proposal preparation are there for a reason. As anyone who has rushed through a task can confirm, taking one’s time and being thorough is sure to produce better outcomes than rushing through a task.
This is especially true of the meticulous work of proposal preparation. Registrations need to be completed (some of which take ~3 weeks to validate). Forms will need to be filled out and information gathered. Teams need to meet. The proposal must be written, reviewed, and copy-edited iteratively. We know from experience how long this process is anticipated to take.
When we tell a client the deadline is too soon to take on the proposal, we are acting in the client’s best interest and making sure we have the required time and resources to complete a competitive proposal that has a strong chance of being awarded. It is always better to wait until the next round and do things correctly than slap together a half-baked proposal at the last minute, and we will tell our clients this every time.
Some of our clients wonder why we do not take on any projects that allow less than 30 days to prepare the proposal. Like most things, proposal preparation is a process. Our team needs time to execute multiple steps within this process on our own internal deadline in order to provide clients a finished product with enough advance before the deadline that they can edit, make changes, and submit before the cutoff time. It is never a good idea to wait until the last minute to submit your proposal. Let’s count backward from 30 days to illustrate why we implemented this guideline.
Platform and submission issues
Due to platform traffic close to the deadline and subsequent congestion, some clients have missed their deadline by waiting too long to submit. There can also be unexpected glitches that arise when trying to submit. Files do not upload as planned. Page length or formatting can be different in the final file form than the first draft when converting to the required file type. The platform can experience errors or warnings. Accounts that clients thought were set up properly may not, in fact, be set up properly and may not have the credentials to submit the proposal. This is why we ensure our work will be done approximately 7 days prior to the deadline and ready for the client to upload. This gives clients wiggle room to ensure all last-minute finalizations can be made. Accounting for this 7-day window, our team is left with 23 out of our allocated 30 days to complete the rest of the proposal preparation process.
Our team will complete not one but two deep copy edits of all proposals we write. The second review will re-evaluate the polished product that is created after edits and feedback have been made in the first copy editing review. This review will screen for spelling and grammar, formatting, and re-read the solicitation to ensure the work we have done aligns with the solicitation. The second review must be completed approximately 14 days prior to the deadline. This leaves our team 16 out of 30 days to complete the rest of the proposal preparation process.
Before moving on to the second review, our team performs the first review. The first review scrutinizes the first draft of the proposal. Any language that is unclear is highlighted, and clarification is requested. Spelling, grammar, and formatting are polished. Citations are finalized. Images are added and labeled. Any potential loose ends are tied up. In order to allow time for the second review and client proposal submission, the first look review must be completed approximately 21 days before the deadline. This leaves a mere 9 out of 30 days for what is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the proposal, writing it.
Finalization of narrative/proposal
With these remaining 9 days, the team must craft the actual proposal. This requires completing all narrative sections of the proposal, completing any cover sheets or online platform work for the client, as well as all budgets and personnel-related attachments, and ensuring the client has completed all required registrations with the government, funder, or both. Proposals can range in length depending on the opportunity, from 5 pages to over 50 pages. Our team can not write in a vacuum, so these 9 days must also include soliciting information and feedback from the client. That is a lot of work to complete in 9 days!
Completing each of the steps of our proposal preparation process in the time frames we allow ourselves is no easy feat. We have found through trial and error that these timelines are the smallest possible windows we can allow to create a competitive proposal. We try to avoid taking on projects less than 30 days in advance of the deadline because we know we can make a better product if we follow our proven formula for success. While some clients are disappointed to hear that their deadline is too close for us to take on their project, we do it with their best interest in mind and with a commitment to offering only the best possible product. Unfortunately, we can not accomplish either of these goals if we accept projects less than 30 days before the deadline.
Want to know a little bit more about our Proposal Preparation Services? We have you covered. See more here. https://www.ebhoward.com/proposal-preparation/
Want to talk with us about how we can serve as proposal preparation consultants? Schedule a consult call today. https://calendly.com/ebhoward/15min
We work with high-growth startups and organizations that support the startup and innovation ecosystem. We build highly specific non-dilutive funding menus, provide proposal preparation services, and measure outcomes of funding through evaluation. Schedule a consult call with us HERE.