Everything You Wanted To Know About Writing an Invitation To Bid But Were Afraid To ask

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Last week we walked through pricing your services and computing your overhead.. This week we are going to talk about writing the proposal.  To recap, so far, we have reviewed the bid, reviewed the specifications, gotten pricing history, and priced out the items or services that the government is requesting. Now we need to roll everything into place and write that bid!!!  To find your solicitation go to Federal Procurement Opportunities website!

Writing an IFB Proposal

Most small businesses will end up writing proposals on Invitations To Bids. Now remember we discussed in earlier articles that when the government writes the solicitation you will end up sending that back in with your final pricing numbers. In fact, you will end up filling out some forms that were in the package and submitting them to the government.  So, the solicitation and your proposal is your complete proposal package.  

This sounds simple, but it is not. Even though you basically fill in some blanks on the forms that the government has provided you, you must be very careful. Remember that the Government is going to review your package as if they have never seen it before.  Your proposal package will include the solicitation along with your proposal.  Together they make up the contract.  That is if you are the apparent successful offeror.

Let’s take a look at these forms.

DD Form 1707 ( Each number refers to a block)

Basically, the DD Form 1707 “Information to Offerors or Quoters” is a cover sheet that is included in the solicitation package. The information contained  in the document is mainly informational. Department of Defense (DoD) uses this form, hence DD Form. What’s the purpose of this form?  The purpose is to gain information on why a company does not want to bid. You will see the DD Form 1707 on solicitations valued over $100,000.

1: Solicitation Number On Your Proposal

An example DoD solicitation number would be FA8201-19-R-A017. The number will identify the specific solicitation throughout the life of the buying action. If the government issues any amendments, it will contain this number plus the amendment number. FA8201 – the first six digits Identifies the agency. In this case FA8201 – would represent a Hill Air Force Base buying office. The next two digits represents the fiscal year. In our example, this would be fiscal year 2019 the solicitation issued, represented by “19”. The next digit “R” indicates the type of solicitation. See chart below for description. What about the rest of the numbers and or letters in the solicitation number? The rest of the characters are sequence numbers used by the government to track their solicitations.

Alpha Character Meaning
B – Invitation for Bid (IFB)
R – Request for Proposal (RFP)
Q – Request for Quote (RFQ)
C – Contract
P – Purchase Order

 2. Type of Solicitation

As we mentioned previously this block indicates the type of solicitation.

• Invitation for Bid (IFB) – This contracting method consists of competitive bids, public opening of bids (Yes you can be present when the government opens the bids,) and award. Most of these bids are for buys over $100,000. Remember as we discussed before on this type of bid the government knows exactly what they want, how they want it, and where they want it sent. The government will review price and price-related factors to determine the winner.

• Request for Proposal (RFP) – The government will use this contracting method when they are not sure of what it wants and is looking for a way to talk to you on how you plan to fulfill their need for an item or service. This type of bid may be competitive or non-competitive.

• Request for Quote (RFQ)- When the government is looking to solicit prices or market information they will use a RFP. The quote submitted does not constitute an offer. Therefore, an RFP does not form a binding contract. When the government wants to issue a contract for an RFP they will use an SF 26.  This form requires two -signatures (one from the government, and one from the business).

3: Date/Time Response Due – Contained in this block is the date and time that the proposals are due to the government.

4: Issuing Office – The office that is issuing the solicitation.

 5: Item To Be Purchased – A description (brief) of what the government is wanting to purchase.

6: Procurement Information – This will list any restrictions or set-asides that apply to the solicitation. The solicitation marked either “restricted” or “unrestricted”. If “unrestricted” then any business can bid on the solicitation. That means that large businesses can compete on these solicitations along with small business. If marked “restricted” then only businesses that meet the restriction can bid on the solicitation. Types of solicitations would be “HUBZone”, SDVOSB”, “8(a)”, or “WOSB”.

7: Additional Information – This block will contain additional information needed to bid on the contract, like where to send the bid, when the bid is due to the government, contact information or website to visit.

8: Point of Contact Information – In this block is the buyer’s name, address and telephone number. Any more the government will only list email addresses. Make sure to check out the box because it will show you how the buyer wishes to accept any inquires.

 9: Reason for No Response. – As we discussed earlier if you are not going to bid on the solicitation, for whatever reason, be sure to fill out this block and send the form back to the buyer. This is extremely important because if you fail to return the form the government might remove you from the bidders list.

10: – Mailing List Information – This block will indicate whether you want to be left on future mailing lists for the item. Just respond either “Yes” or “No”.

11: Responding Firm – You will fill in this block with your business information to include your bid price.

Back Side of Form: – The back side of the form is set up as a fold over mailer. Just address it, put a stamp on it and drop it in the mail.

Standard Form 33 (SF33)

The next form on the list is the Standard Form 33 (SF33). Standard Form 33 is “Solicitation, Offer and Award”. The Government will use this form to solicit offers and award contracts. It is a bilateral or two-signature document. You sign in block 17, and the government signs the same form in block 27. This causes the document to become a binding contract.

We went over this form two videos ago. However, we will go through the form again as a refresher. The top portion which is made up of block 1-11, is the solicitation area and is filled out by the government. These blocks will contain information about the solicitation. Blocks 12-18 contains the area that you, the buyer, will need to fill in before returning the form to the government. The last portion, Block 19-28, contain the award area and the government will complete and sent back to you when you win a contract.

TIP – Check your page numbers, generally Page 1 of ##. If there is a page missing contact the buying office immediately. You cannot submit an accurate bid if there is missing information. This has caused problems for many companies in the past.

Solicitation Section (Filled Out by the Buyer) Again each number refers to a block on the form.

1 : Contract is a Rated Order. A rated order contract is one that has a specific classification for how “hot” the need is. Although, these days you won’t ever see activation of rated procedures, it is there if the need arises. About the only time you might see a rated bid is during a time of national emergency or war.

 2 : Contract Number – The government will not fill in this number until the contract award. Once the government issues the contract the numbering will be like the number in Block 3, the Solicitation Number, but it will have a “C” instead of an “R” in the number sequence.

3 : Solicitation Number – This is the number of the solicitation that we discussed earlier in the video.

4 : Type of Solicitation – The Government will list the type of solicitation in this block. Invitation for Bid (IFB), or Request for Proposal (RFP).

5 : Date Issued – This is the date the government released the requirement. 

6: Requisition/Purchase Number – The government uses this number internally to track the service or product. This is the number assigned to the requirement. There could be multiple against a solicitation number.

7 : Issued By – this block will identify the government agency that is purchasing the product or service. Make a special note of any information here. Remember that you might be dealing with a “buying agency” that could be located across the country from the end user. You could spend a ton of time with the end user and still lose the whole deal by not checking the location of the buyer. You need to speak with both.

8 : Address Offer To – This block contains the address to send your proposal.

9 : Additional Info – Make sure to look closely at this block. This block will tell you whether the buying office wants additional copies of the offer for evaluation purposes and where to bring the offer if you decide to hand-carry it to the buying office. Also, this block contains the date and time when the offer is due.

Be Prepared – Make sure that your proposal arrives BEFORE the due date and time. The government will not consider your proposal if you are one minute late. The Government viewpoint is that it is your responsibility to have the proposal submitted ON TIME!

10: For Information Call – This block will contain a point of contact for any information on this specific bid. It will have the name, phone number and e-mail address for you if you need it.

11 : Table of Contents – This should be the same as the “TOC” page but does not contain the “Appendices”. It is up to the buying office on whether they will include the appendices or not. Make sure that the two Table of Contents match. This section will also give you the page counts for each section. If it says that there are 25 pages in Section C: Description/specs/work statement and you only have 10 pages, you need to call the buyer and find out what’s missing. Also don’t assume that the buyer will automatically send you the missing pages. It is best for you to call the buyer and discuss your findings. Then ask for the missing pages.

12 : Acceptance Period – You will enter the number of days your pricing is good for in this block. If you fail to put a number in this block, then the government will assume it is the 60 days. Sixty days is the default number.

Tip: If you give the government too long a time frame then your costs could change. Make sure your number is reasonable.

13: Discounts for Prompt Payment – This block is where you will but the size of the discount, if any, that you will give the government if they pay you promptly. Remember that the Prompt Payment Act requires the government to pay small businesses within 30 days if the business completes its end of the contract. Find out if your competitors are offering a discount. If your competitors are offering discounts then you should do the same. This will help you be competitive. If your competitors are not offering discounts, then don’t. One other thing regarding the Prompt Payment Act. The clock on the 30 days only starts when your invoice is received and is correct. If your invoice is not correct, it gets kicked back until it is correct.

14 : Acknowledgments of Amendments – You will let the buyer know that you received all the amendments that were sent out. If the buyer mailed out six and you only received three, the buyer will throw out your bid as non-responsive if the missing amendment impacts the material aspects of the solicitation.

15a  – Name and Address of Offeror – In this block you will enter your company name, address and in the little box marked “code”, your Cage Code and your facility code if applicable.

15b – Remittance Address – If you want the government to send the check for payment to a different address than the one provided in Block 15a you would mark this box and enter the address on the schedule. Since the government sends payments electronically, I am not sure how useful this block is anymore.

16 : Name and Title of Person Authorized to Sign Offer – Enter the name and title of the person in your company authorized to sign the contracts. Note: Only personnel listed in SAM (System for Award Management) can sign the contract.

17 : Signature – This is where your authorized person must sign the contract.

Tip – Make sure to sign the contract!!! Don’t lose the bid because you failed to sign the proposal.

18: Offer Date – In this block you will enter the date that you are sending the contract.

Award Section (Completed by Government)

Once you have completed Block 18 your portion of the proposal is complete. If you receive the contract, then the government will send you the document back with the award section completed. Congratulations!

Let’s look at the award section.

19 : Accepted as to Items Numbered – Government will identify which specific your awarded items.

20: Amount – This is the dollar value of the contract.

21 : Accounting and Appropriation – The government will fill I the appropriate accounting and appropriation codes. This is government specific information and is not relevant to you.

22 : Authority for Using Other Than Full and Open Competition – This field is information only.

23 : Submit Invoice to Address Shown in – The government will tell you where to look in the contract for the appropriate address.

24 : Administered By – This is the office that will administer the contract. Note that the office listed may be different than the one putting the bid out.

25 : Payment Will Be Made By – This is the office that will pay the contract.

26 : Name of the Contracting Officer – The Contracting Officer’s name can be found here. You will need this person’s name only if you win the contract.

27 : United States of America – This is the block where the Contracting Officer will sign that you have an active, actual, real government contract.

28 : Award Date – This is the date that the Contracting Officer signed the contract.

Contract awards can be made on the SF 33 or on another form SF 26 or by any other authorized official written notice. Watch for the award coming out. If you did not win find out who did, how much and the detail of the award. Always ask for a debriefing.

Amendments to Solicitation – Standard Form 30

When the Government needs to change or modify the quantity, specifications, delivery or any other part of a solicitation, or if there is some part of the solicitation that is not correct, they will do so through an amendment. The government completes this form and sends to prospective bidders.

On an IFB, if you feel that the government needs to change the requirement, you must contact the buyer before the bid opening date and discuss the reason for the change. The government will review your request.  If the buyer agrees with you the bid will modify, or cancelled and re-bid the changes.

Amendments to RFP

Now on an RFP you may be able to bid the changes explaining why this is in the best interest of the government. Make sure to read the solicitation carefully to make sure that the government will approve this approach. If you are not sure talk to the buyer.

Remember that you will need to list any and all amendments that you have received on the bid form before you send it in. If you omit an amendment the government will considered your proposal as non-responsive. This means that the government could throw out your bid. Therefore, make sure to triple check the documents prior to submitting them to the government.

If there is a change that will affect the bid opening, the government will extend the Bid Opening Date (BOD) and send a notice to all prospective bidders. Make sure that you acknowledge this amendment in your bid.


Remember to list all amendments on the form when sending in your proposal. Most small businesses create a checklist of items to review prior to proposal submittal. You may want to do this also.

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