• SJ

Avoiding Proposal Disaster series, week 3: the Pet Project


Pet hamsters? Cute. Pet projects? Less cute.


It’s part three of five in our series on cutting off proposal disasters before they start through an improved go/no go process. Today we’re talking about determining when a small funding opportunity is actually a strategic investment and when it’s just a waste of resources.


Disaster 3: The Pet Project


Some proposals with low budget ceilings compared to your organization’s typical scale of operations get classified as “low-hanging fruit.” You’re probably really competitive for them, too!


The only thing no one’s mentioning is that a $100,000 proposal does not take 1% of the level of effort that at $10 million proposal would. Proposal teams are quietly buried under the workload of dozens of tiny proposals (each with their own budget template!) and are never heard from again.


The good news? A solid Go/No Go Process can keep these not-so-strategic Pet Projects off your pipeline:

  • Include a question in your Go/No Go Process that gives you space to identify when a small opportunity is one that will lead to future, larger opportunities. Require that advocates for the opportunity base it on facts and provide a probability of how likely this small fish is to turn into a big one.

  • Consider a method to track cost of each opportunity your organization pursues (including staff time). The ability to calculate ROI for the bids you worked on last year should provide all the evidence you need to explain why one $10 million bid is preferable to twenty $500,000 bids. It’s important to make sure the method you employ is right-sized for your organization – the biggest competitors have incredibly robust systems to track this kind of information, but you don’t want to spend more tracking your ROI than you actually spend on bids.

  • Even more simply, you can set a floor to the size of proposal your organization will pursue. Be wary of allowing exemptions – the rule can fall apart quickly once you do. It will always look attractive to let one little special pet project through…but it will rarely be strategic.


Keep checking back for our next post in the series!

  1. The 11th Hour Kill Switch

  2. The Hail Mary

  3. The Pet Project (today)

  4. The Busywork

  5. The Overstretch

If these disasters hit a little too close to home, it may be time to start re-evaluating your Go/No Go process. Fortunately, we’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of different processes at a lot of different organizations and learn a bit about what works and what doesn’t. Why not set up a time to talk about what we would recommend to improve yours?

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