Love me, tender

Century One Publishing Limited [COP], like many other businesses, receives several formal tenders throughout a year. The approach and processes vary widely. This article serves to provide a view on what works well in this process for membership organisations and charities when initiating tenders.

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At the heart of this exercise suppliers wish to generate more business. In an ideal world new business would simply walk in through the door. For example, a charity may have a specific need and the requirements are met through a specific company. Prior to that a good rapport was developed and hey presto, both parties agree terms and they move forward into a collaborative style relationship which works for years to come. It works well because they are able to discuss and resolve hiccups which occur along the way.  

The parties work together to continuously improve each other.  They are consistently revisiting and reassessing performance to ascertain what can be improved and changed, if at all. This is the ideal supplier/client relationship.

In my experience these are the relationships which are the most fruitful for the client because they get the best out of us and vice versa.  It’s win–win all round.

Having said that, there is often a requirement for charities and institutions to put a tendering process in place. This may be for a number of reasons:  things might be feeling a bit stale with the current supplier; there may be concerns around value; perhaps a new service or software package is being implemented that requires a new partner.  

In such situations it is good governance to put the requirement out to tender.

COP receive many invitations to tender each year. This process takes a great deal of investment from both the client and the potential suppliers – investment in time, investment in staff resource, and sometimes monetary investment. That the process is handled well is important to both client and supplier alike.


The tenders we receive vary hugely in approach. There is no set way to provide a tender, nor should there be – requirements vary. However, given we have had sight of so many over the years there are some points worth laying out. Sometimes, what should be the most obvious objectives become lost in the complexities of setting out a tender process.


This should include:



Tendering can be a complex and intricate affair and sometimes can take on a life of its own. Lots of processes are followed and it can be easy to lose focus on what the goals of the tender are. Those involved can become bogged down going through check lists, rather than focusing on what is really important, such as your actual requirements.

Why not cut through this and use a potential supplier for a bespoke one-off project and assess how well it works? This in itself will mean some sort of a relationship will be built during the exercise.  If it goes well, you will have picked up lots of information and have a good understanding of the supplier – their culture, their ideas and abilities and the level of service that they provide

Getting a supplier to actually undertake an exercise for you goes a long way to testing them in real terms which is sometimes more effective than an extensive and protracted tendering process.  Throughout life, we sit exams to demonstrate knowledge and ability. Taking ‘the exam’ through a real-life situation, may be more effective than a full tender.


Tendering is, for the best part, a necessary part of running your organisation well.  Ensure it is approached comprehensively: –

Once your selection process is complete and your new partnership is underway, work together in the spirit of continuous improvement on both sides.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this blog in detail, please contact Sarah directly on Furthermore, if you would like to discuss our content, design or sales services the senior management team will be available at the Chase Live event.

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