How a tiny team at a children’s charity won the biggest contract of their lives

When the local authority announced it was changing the structure of the family support service in Hertfordshire, charity One YMCA faced writing the biggest bid in its history – or losing £500,000 in funding.

The challenge

One YMCAprovided outreach and support for local children and their families through their two children’s centre groups in the county. But with the local authority changing their approach to the division of the service, the charity’s small team would have to bid for a whole quadrant: something five times the size of their existing contract.

‘It was win everything or lose everything,’ explains Director of Family Support Serreta Pritchard. ‘We would win a whole quadrant or we would win nothing.’

Not only that. ‘This quadrant was worth £2.9 million,’ says Serreta. ‘Previously our total of the two groups that we had in Hertfordshire, between them, was £500,000. That’s quite a jump. So we knew we needed some support.’

The solution

Serreta commissioned Emphasis to create abid-writing coursetailored to their particular requirements, to help her and CEO Guy Foxell – the main bid writers – as well as other team members who would contribute.

The course contained highly tailored examples and bespoke exercises that Emphasis built from the previous bids that Serreta supplied. ‘We had sections of them to analyse during the training session,’ says Serreta. ‘It was really helpful to use something that we’d already written – and, having had some training already, to analyse it with those different eyes. That was the best part of the training course.’

After the group session, Serreta also worked one-to-one with trainerGary Woodwardthroughout the writing process. As the bid deadline approached, she shared her draft work with Gary, who made comments and sent it back for her to work on again. The pair also met up to go through the drafts in detail together.

‘The coaching was incredibly supportive to me,’ says Serreta.

The results

So after the training, consultation and coaching, the million-pound question – or rather the 2.9 million-pound question – is did they win the bid?

And yes, they did.

‘We won the contract. A 2.9 million pound contract,’ says Serreta. ‘We came second place for a one million pound contract a year previously, so to get a 2.9 million pound contract was just amazing.’

Serreta and Guy are not bid writers or bid managers by trade – but they were, as she rightly points out, for the months it took to produce this one. And in doing so they beat some national childcare charities to the contract – a fact that makes the win even sweeter. ‘Where national childcare charities have a bid-writing team, we don’t,’ says Serreta. ‘And it’s something we’re even more proud of because of that.’

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