Top tips for bidding on MDB development contracts

Devex shares key tips for bidding on development contracts with multilateral development banks. Photo by: Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Since the start of the pandemic, multilateral development banks have channeled more official development assistance, according to data studies from Development Initiatives.

The MDB space is competitive, with lengthy project cycles and bidding processes, so it's important that your organization has a medium-term strategy before bidding.

With 20 years’ experience tracking development opportunities and advising members on how best to win business, Devex summarizes the key tips to consider when bidding on MDB development contracts:

1. Become familiar with the institution’s project cycle, procedures, eligibility criteria

The good news is that the MDB programming and processes are transparent, which helps organizations preview the type of services that will be required.

First, find out if your organization meets the criteria to become an eligible supplier. In some cases, eligibility is restricted to member countries of the bank. Second, become familiar with the project cycle, and set up an engagement strategy with the relevant stakeholders at the different stages of the cycle.

While the bulk of business opportunities arise during the implementation stage of projects, consulting organizations should also look out for small opportunities prior to project approval, such as impact assessments or feasibility studies.

Devex Pro Funding feature: Members can set up alerts to monitor business opportunities.

Last but not least, set up a system to track and identify procurement opportunities several times a week.

2. Monitor project pipeline information, investment priorities, and market your competitive advantage

Exploring the donor’s country development strategies is the first step to find out about the sectoral priorities and the specific needs of the country. As part of an organization’s business intelligence research, study the bank’s project pipeline information — projects under preparation — and identify which ones align best with your value add.

Prepare to become a future contractor by elevating your credibility, whether you find projects that align with your services or not. Do this by presenting your technical expertise and sharing best practices with key stakeholders with the bank and executing agencies.

MDB-funded projects look for innovative ways to solve development problems and usually, project officers are interested in hearing about the latest market updates. Being acquainted with the country’s context, sector issues, and understanding the goals of the project is key for fruitful meetings.

Once the project is approved, it will be implemented by an executing agency under supervision from the bank. Then a “general procurement notice,” announcing the upcoming services that will be purchased, is published before the first tender is released. It is not mandatory, but if your organization is not on the agency’s radar, submit a short one-page letter of interest, expressing your interest, requesting to be added to any future mailings, and enclosing discreet marketing materials.

3. Join or build a consortium and consider local partners

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Do not wait for the bid to be released before you start building relationships with partners. During the preparation stages of the project, conduct a competitor analysis, and start considering if competitors can become partners. Researching past contract awards to identify organizations likely to be shortlisted is a typical business strategy.

In most cases, it adds points to your offer if a local organization is part of the consortium. Traditionally, international contractors used to be the primes and local organizations the subcontractor, however, in recent years local contractors are also increasingly winning more contracts in some countries and becoming the leads with an international company as the subcontractor.

4. Respond to expressions of interest and proposal requests with strong arguments and follow the formal guidelines

Given the efforts and resources invested in the overall strategy to win MDB business, it is important to avoid being disqualified for common pitfalls — such as not signing the bid letter, submitting the bid late, failing to disclose conflict of interest, or including non-eligible partners in the consortium. In case of doubt, email the purchasing agency, with the bank’s officer in copy, and ask for clarification.

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After reviewing the procurement selection method, carefully read the award criteria in the terms of reference. The reward criteria should be the main guideline when writing the content of your bid.

Address all the requirements and propose project leaders, experts, and consultants with the best qualifications for the job. Strengthen your organization’s arguments on value for money, sustainability, use of innovative methodologies, and gender and environmental assessments.

Try out Devex Pro Funding today with a free 5-day trial, and explore funding opportunities from over 850+ sources in addition to our analysis and news content.

About the author

  • Raquel Alcega

    Raquel Alcega leads the business research and analysis at Devex providing advice to organizations on the latest funding and programmatic trends shaping the growing global development space. She also develops the news business content strategy by monitoring and analyzing the activities of financial institutions and philanthropic organizations. Prior to joining Devex's Barcelona office, she worked in business development in Washington, D.C., and as a researcher in Russia and Mexico.