Responding to a Solicitation

USAID competes the vast majority of its programs. To ensure competition, USAID issues solicitations asking organizations to respond. USAID selects the organization whose response best meets the evaluation criteria outlined in the solicitation.

Provided below is information about the types of solicitations that USAID utilizes and tips for responding.

For more information on responding to a solicitation, please review the online training on Effectively Responding to USAID Award Solicitations.

Types of Notifications and Solicitations Issued

Market Research and Notifications: USAID often uses a variety of tools to conduct market research and notify industry of the Agency’s intentions. Organizations are strongly encouraged to provide responses to the posted notifications and solicitations. Responses help the Agency to better define its programs, clarify questions from industry, and obtain a better understanding of industry’s capabilities. Provided below are some of the common types of market research and notifications that USAID utilizes:

  • Request for Information (RFI): A call for organizations to share technical or other requested information with USAID, before a formal solicitation is issued.

  • Pre-Solicitation Notice: Provides advance notification that the Agency will be issuing a solicitation

  • Sources Sought Notice: A notice to determine how many sources are interested, the level of experience and qualifications, and whether the activity might be suitable for a particular type of small business set-aside.

  • Draft Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) or Draft Request for Proposal (RFP): A draft of the NOFO/RFP is shared prior to the formal solicitation being released. The purpose is to receive industry’s feedback and input on the NOFO/RFP.

  • Draft Scope of Work: A draft of the planned scope of work is shared so that industry can provide feedback and get a better understanding of a planned activity.

Funding Opportunity Solicitations: When funding becomes available and USAID is interested in making an award to implement an activity, solicitations will be issued. You can track up-coming solicitations on the Agency’s Business Forecast.

  • Request for Proposal (RFP): An RFP is issued for contracting mechanisms. All RFPs are posted on FBO.gov.  

Federal Acquisition Regulations require solicitations over $25,000 to be posted on FBO.gov. For actions that are over $15,000, but under $25,000 they are required to be posted in a public place for no less than 10 days. The FAR does not provide specifics on where they must be posted. In these circumstances how they get posted can vary. They can be published in local newspapers, on the Embassy/USAID website, or on FBO.gov.

  • Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): A NOFO is issued for all grant and cooperative agreement opportunities. A NOFO is typically for a specific activity and is open for a limited amount of time for organizations to respond. All NOFOs are posted on Grants.gov.

  • Annual Program Statements (APS):  An APS is posted on Grants.gov. It is normally open for a year and is meant to encourage concept papers on a wider range of programs before a second stage submission of a full application for those concept papers deemed potentially viable.

Other Types of Solicitations

  • Broad Agency Announcement (BAA): BAAs are a tool used by USAID to collaborate with both the private and public sector when facing a development challenge that does not have a clear solution and there appears to be an opportunity for innovation. All organizations are encouraged to participate in the BAA process. BAAs can result in  contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements and are posted on both FBO.gov and Grants.gov. You can learn more about BAAs here.

Tips for Responding to a Solicitation

  1. Read the solicitation carefully: Included in the solicitation will be critical information such as the scope of work, evaluation criteria, eligibility information, and more. Be sure that you understand all of the requirements included in the solicitation.
  2. Review the Evaluation Criteria: Study the evaluation criteria and their order of importance in the solicitation. Typical evaluation criteria include Technical Expertise, Staffing, Experience and Capabilities, and Past Performance.
  3. Ask Questions: When a solicitation is issued, a point of contact will be listed. Be sure to only contact the individual(s) listed in the solicitation. All questions must be submitted in writing.  
  4. Be aware of dates: Deadlines are critical. Be sure to check dates and times, and ensure to take into account time zone differences. Information submitted past deadlines will likely not be accepted.
  5. Follow instructions:  Outlined in every solicitation are specific requirements/instructions for how you must prepare your response. We recommend that organizations create a checklist of key items and mark them off as they are produced. If you do not follow the requirements/instructions, your submission may not be considered.
  6. Submit your best response: Your organization should submit its best possible response to a solicitation in case USAID decides to make an award without discussions or negotiations.
  7. Build on lessons learned:  We recommend that you consult the Agency’s Development Experience Clearinghouse to prepare a substantive and knowledgeable submission.
  8. Understand USAID: It is important to demonstrate that your organization has an understanding of how USAID operates. Review the Agency’s Program Cycle and read relevant Country Development Cooperation Strategies.
  9. Demonstrate ability to perform: Past performance information is a key factor for predicting successful performance. Your organization will want to ensure that you provide information about your relevant and recent past performance.  If you are new to doing business with USAID or the federal government, your organization can still submit performance information that is not necessarily U.S. Government or USAID-funded work.
  10. Explain how your proposed costs are competitive:  We are responsible for achieving best value in our awards. Solicitations usually request that cost proposals also include a detailed narrative on how costs were developed.
  11. Demonstrate financial soundness and organizational responsibility: USAID must make a responsibility determination based on financial soundness and organization. One source of information that USAID uses is the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).  If a USAID Agreement or Contracting Officer is unable to make a positive pre-award responsibility determination based on information provided by the applicant or available in FAPIIS, he or she may undertake a formal pre-award survey of your organization.

Additional Information on Responding to a Solicitation

Other specialized aspects that USAID considers include gender, environment, and branding/marking.  Please check the solicitation for the below requirements.

  • Gender:  Gender equality is universally recognized as core development objectives, fundamental for the realization of human rights, and key effective and sustainable development outcomes.  Applicants/Offerors must address gender in accordance with instructions provided in the solicitation.  See ADS 201 for further information.
  • Environment:  Effective implementation of environmental impact assessment ensures that the development activities USAID undertakes are economically sustainable and protective of the world's environment.  Applicants/Offerors must to address implementation and costs of addressing environmental concerns.  Please see USAID Environmental Compliance.
  • Branding/Marking:  Programs under the Foreign Assistance Act must be identified by appropriate USAID branding and marking overseas (some security exceptions may apply).  See the solicitation for further information and ADS 320 and USAID Branding.

Sub-Partnerships and Teaming
In many cases, USAID's development assistance activities require specialized skills from a set of development partners. Organizations may form a team for an award or establish subcontracting arrangements to achieve the overall development goals. Organizations interested in doing business with USAID should understand that small business partnerships and local entity or organization partnerships are paramount in doing USAID work. USAID encourages organizations to partner with small business and local partners to the greatest extent possible.  Please see links pertaining to small businesses and local partners. You can also learn more about Sub-Partnerships through our online training here.

Small Business
Subcontracting opportunities for small businesses in USAID contracts are a vital part of USAID's overall small business participation program. In negotiated acquisitions/sealed bid acquisitions expected to exceed $700,000 ($1,500,000 for construction) and that has subcontracting possibilities, the apparently successful non-small business offeror must submit an acceptable subcontracting plan.

We recommend prime contractors utilize the Small Business Administration's Sub-Net database as part of their efforts to locate quality subcontractors that will help to achieve subcontracting goals. Small businesses can review this website to identify opportunities in their areas of expertise. While the website is designed primarily as a place for large businesses to post solicitations and notices, it can also be used by Federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, colleges and universities, and even small businesses for the same purpose. Instead of marketing blindly to hundreds of prime contractors, with no certainty that any given company has a need for their product or service, small businesses can use their limited resources to identify concrete, tangible opportunities and bid on them.  

Please check the Agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for further information.

 

Last updated: April 17, 2017

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