Proposal Prep

One thing I try to do when I’m facing a new proposal is to have a template prepared and ready to go for the team when they start writing. This is just one of several things the technical writer can do to get the effort started well. Read on!

Read Ahead, Read Quickly

Often a team has been expecting a request for proposal (RFP) to be released (“dropped”) for a while, especially if they are seeking a particular opportunity. One of your jobs on a business development team might be to scan FedBizOpps ( to be on the lookout for the drop. Once the live RFP is on the street, it will become your job to read the RFP.

The Ghost of a Shell

Here are some things you can make your subject matter experts’ lives easier:

  • Set up a proposal “shell” in your organization’s in-house template. This “shell” will be organized according to Section L (if you’re working with a U.S. Government solicitation) or the Proposal Instructions. This will include:
    • Having content in the order requested.
    • Having separate documents set up for each volume, if needed.
    • Including the appropriate proprietary or export control notices on the cover page(s) and in the headers/footers.
    • Including the company logo (if permitted) and contact information.
  • In addition to being organized in the order reflected in the RFP, you might need to make some tweaks to your in-house template, such as making certain that your fonts are in line with the RFP. The government will often specify Times New Roman for body text and require that you use no smaller than a 10 pt. font for things like captions or tables.
  • One thing I’ll do to help the SMEs is copy and paste any instructional text at the top of each section so it’s clear what they are responding to when they write their content. I will also include the page count maximums, if required. Sometimes I’ve worked with the Business Development Manager to assign specific lengths and authors to each section. This sort of information is helpful when the proposal is effort is large and time is short.
  • Set up folders in the corporate network drive for the proposal and its various subsections.
  • Establish file naming conventions, especially if the RFP includes specific instructions.
  • Identify potential graphics (tables, diagrams, photographs, or other images) that you think the effort will require and give the graphic designer a heads-up on the requirements.

Ideally all of this will be set up and sent out to the proposal team before you have your first meeting, which often will be the day the RFP comes out. Therefore, it’s good to set up these various items as soon as possible. The benefit of all this front-end effort is that your SMEs and writing team already have a starting point from which to begin the effort. Also, it means you won’t be scrambling on the back end at the last minute trying to put everything together. You’ll make your life as well as your team’s life much easier!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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