Responding to a Solicitation

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FAST FACTS

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) require that solicitations over $25,000 be posted on beta.SAM.gov. Contract actions between $15,000 and $25,000 must be displayed in a public place or by appropriate electronic means for at least 10 days. The FAR does not specify where; they can be published in local newspapers, posted on an Embassy or USAID website, or placed on beta.SAM.gov.

To learn more about responding to a solicitation, review the online training “Effectively Responding to USAID Award Solicitations.” [PDF, 5MB]

At USAID, we aim to capitalize on the full marketplace of ideas, so we encourage competition by issuing solicitations and asking organizations to respond to them. We select partners whose response best meets the evaluation criteria outlined in our solicitation. Learn more about the types of notifications and solicitations we use and other essential terms you need to know to work with USAID.

Market Research and Notifications

USAID uses a variety of tools to conduct market research and notify partners about the Agency’s intentions for a solicitation. We strongly encourage organizations to respond to these—your responses help us to more clearly define programs and gain a deeper understanding of capabilities. 

We most often use these types of market research and notifications:

  • Request for Information (RFI): A call for organizations to share technical or other requested information before we issue a formal solicitation. The RFI is one way USAID explores ideas and plans for future projects in a particular area.

  • Pre-Solicitation Notice: A notification that the Agency will be issuing a solicitation.

  • Sources Sought Notice: A notice to determine the number of organizations interested in a possible funding opportunity, their level of experience and qualifications, and the suitability of an activity for a particular type of small business set-aside.

  • Draft Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): A draft of the NOFO, released before the formal solicitation is announced;  its purpose is to receive feedback and input.

  • Draft Scope of Work: A draft of the planned scope of work that enables organizations to provide feedback and to get a better understanding of a planned activity.

Wondering what are APS, BAA, and CDCS?

So what are APS,BAA, and CDCS? They are a few of the special ingredients in our Acronym Soup—a simple recipe for partnership success, created by the New Partnerships Initiative. Watch the video — and download our quick reference guide! [PDF, 137K]

Funding Opportunity Solicitations

When funding becomes available and USAID is interested in making an award to implement an activity, we will issue a solicitation. You can follow upcoming solicitations on the Agency’s Business Forecast. There are different types of solicitations:

  • Request for Proposal (RFP): An official solicitation for acquisition awards (contracts) that tells you what the Agency requires for a specific project or activity and how it will evaluate bids. All RFPs are posted on beta.SAM.gov.
  • Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): An official solicitation for assistance awards (grants and cooperative agreements). All NOFOs are posted on Grants.gov.

  • Annual Program Statement (APS): A “call to action” released by USAID on Grants.gov, usually once a year, that outlines the need for a specific kind of program and encourages the submission of a wide range of concept papers.

  • Broad Agency Announcement (BAA): A competitive and collaborative research and development process used to seek innovative solutions to development challenges from public, private, for-profit, and nonprofit partners. BAAs can result in contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements and are posted on both beta.SAM.gov and Grants.gov. Learn more about BAAs.

Tips for Responding to a Solicitation

Download our quick reference guide. [PDF 259K]

1
Read the solicitation carefully: It will contain important information, such as the scope of work, evaluation criteria, and eligibility qualifications. Be sure that you understand all the requirements before preparing your response.
 
2
Review evaluation criteria: Study the evaluation criteria and their order of importance as listed in the solicitation. Typical evaluation criteria include technical expertise, staffing, experience and capabilities, and past performance.
 
3
Ask questions: Solicitations will include a point (or points) of contact. Only those individuals should be contacted about the solicitation; all questions should be submitted in writing.
 
4
Be aware of deadlines: Check dates and times, and take into account time zone differences. Information submitted past the deadline will likely not be accepted.
 
5
Follow instructions: Each solicitation includes specific requirements and instructions for preparing your response. We recommend that organizations create a checklist of key items and mark them off as they are completed. If you do not follow the requirements exactly, your submission may be disqualified.
 
6
Build on lessons learned: Consult the Agency’s Development Experience Clearinghouse to prepare a substantive and informed submission.
 
7
Understand USAID: It is important to demonstrate that your organization has an understanding of USAID’s operations. Review the Agency’s program cycle, and read relevant Country Development Cooperation Strategies.
 
8
Demonstrate ability to perform: Past performance information is a key factor for predicting successful performance. Your organization needs to provide information about your relevant recent past performance. If your organization is new to doing business with USAID or the U.S. Government, you can submit performance information from other work.
 
9
Explain how your proposed costs are competitive: We are responsible for achieving the best value in our awards. Solicitations usually request that cost proposals also outline a narrative describing, in detail, how your costs were developed.
 
10
Demonstrate financial and organizational responsibility: USAID makes a responsibility determination based on financial and organizational standing. We use the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) as one resource to verify this information, or the USAID Agreement or Contracting Officer may conduct a formal pre-award survey of your organization.
 

Additional Information

Other specialized aspects that USAID considers in a solicitation response are gender, environment, and branding and marking. Review the solicitation for these requirements:

  • Gender: Gender equality is universally recognized as a core development objective. It is fundamental for the realization of human rights and key to effective and sustainable development outcomes. Applicants/offerors must address gender in accordance with instructions provided in the solicitation. See ADS 201 for more information.
  • Environment: Effective implementation of an environmental impact assessment ensures that the development activities USAID undertakes are economically sustainable and conscious of the world's environment. Applicants/offerors must address the implementation and costs of managing environmental concerns. See USAID Environmental Compliance.
  • Branding and 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, along with the USAID Branding Guidelines.

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 sub-contracting arrangements to achieve the overall development goals. USAID encourages organizations to partner with small business and local partners to the greatest extent possible; see links pertaining to small businesses and local partners. You can also learn more about sub-partnerships through our online training.

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

Check the Agency’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for more information.

 

Last updated: August 14, 2020

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