Bid Opportunity Basics
You don’t need an MBA to know that steady revenue streams are important for any business. Unfortunately, many health centers have a limited view of what’s available to them revenue-wise. While everyone knows about the funding opportunities available through HRSA and various foundations, few organizations perform due diligence when it comes to investigating the many state and local bid opportunities that are out there, and right in the health center’s community. If you have the operational capacity and are not seeking these opportunities, you should be.
Local and state governments frequently publish RFIs (Requests for Information) and RFQs (Requests for Quote). An RFI allows purchasing entities to collect basic information, concerning products and services, experience, and capabilities, from would-be suppliers. RFQs are issued when an entity is simply seeking willing service providers/suppliers qualifications and best prices.
Here’s a sample of a few that appeared recently that could be of interest to a health center:
- Bid Nr. 1230-5667-3, XXX Department of Public Safety – Annual immunizations, State Police Academy
- Bid Nr. 245-98, XXX School District – School Nurse (RN), 20 hours a week
- Bid Nr. 456-009-0, Psychological Screening – Clinical Psychologist, 2 days each week
- Bid Nr. 23-245-2014, XXX Prison Facility – Dental screening, preventive, and restorative services
- Bid Nr. INSDEP-2014-0034 – WIC Eligibility determinations/enrollment
Before You Bid…
Every health center has its own unique staffing profile. For some health centers, undertaking these kinds of commitments might negatively impact their regular health services operations. However, underutilized health centers or those with excess capacity could benefit from these opportunities. These contracts can make it possible to offer additional hours to part-time providers wanting more work. Such an arrangement allows for these providers to be retained under the staffing umbrella of the health center, offering some depth in the event of vacation or illness. While many individual providers do bid their services to government agencies independently, others are intimidated by the bid process and the administrative requirements. In most instances, local government and state agency contracts are far less complex to administer than federal grants. For example, undertaking contracts seeking performance of human services staff functions such as processing insurance applications, WIC enrollment/rectification, and other similar activities already mastered by the organization can add staff depth and provide additional hours to attract and retain part-time patient relations staff.
Another reason to consider going after state and local contracts is that they can lead to new opportunities. If you’ve ever struggled to flesh out the Collaboration section for a federal grant or wished your organization had more to brag about to a foundation, these kinds of contracts might be just what you need. Successful work on a contract gives you a concrete example of your organization’s efforts to further engage with and provide assistance to your community. You’ll also have another contact when you need to put together letters of support. Finally, if your organization builds a reputation for effectively executing contracts, there’s a good chance this information will find its way to purchasing agents who will make sure your organization is aware of upcoming bids.
Finding Bid Opportunities
Every state and most large municipalities have websites where open bid opportunities are posted. Many of these sites are open to anyone wishing to search them, but a generally straight-forward registration process is often required to download bid documents or submit bids. Registration also typically provides you with the option to select or “shop” for the types of bids you’re interested in and receive email updates when bids matching your criteria are posted. Be aware that there are a number of states that require both registration and a fee. In most cases, these fees are nominal and paid on an annual basis.
Interestingly enough, government purchasing agents are generally fairly open about taking calls from potential bidders and answering questions about bid opportunities. So, don’t be shy about asking questions. In the case of the sample offerings shown above, the rate being paid to the current provider may be publicly available. You might also be able to find out the qualification levels of the current providers. A word of caution: Read the bid documents carefully before placing a call to the purchasing agent. Think of the purchasing agent as a potential customer for the health center. Dumb questions by new bidders are O.K., but at least read the basic bid materials.
30 Minutes a Week
By registering with bid sites to set search preferences and manage email alerts, it’s possible to spend less than 30 minutes a week looking for state and local bid opportunities. Of course, actually submitting a bid will require some work. However, if you win a contract, you’ve boosted revenue and set yourself up for winning bids in the future.
For some additional thoughts concerning funding, see Norm’s previous post.