Everyone completely underestimates how long the process of finding a new supplier can take – unless you’re in procurement, that is. And then times that by 10 for charities.

If you’ve been given the task of finding a new travel supplier for your charity then you’ll understand the stalling and the setbacks that are often involved only too well. You’ll understand the often time-consuming challenge of chasing up potential suppliers’ details or answers to tender questions that are absolutely vital to the decision making process, all whilst feeling the pressure of deadlines set by your key stakeholders.

Of course, all of the hard work and hours of reading lengthy bids will pay off when you find that perfect travel management company (TMC) who will save your charity time, stress and money – but what can you do to make that final sign off arrive a little quicker?

Here’s a handful of practical advice to make sure that you get the answers you need in order to make the right decision, without receiving chapter and verse (along with appendices) from your potential candidates:

1. Wishlist
Decide what your key requirements are and develop them into a wishlist, focusing all of your questions on these areas – this will ensure that you receive a succinct tender document. Providing as much information as possible as to your challenges and ambitions will mean that any responses that you receive will be completely tailored and relevant to you.

2. Re-hash
Make sure the tender is completely travel specific. Don’t re-hash old templates from previous non-travel related tenders, as this often leads to irrelevant questions that TMCs find a way of creating a response for, but in reality these only waste your time as you read them.

3. Nice vs Must
Make what your organisation sees as mandatory and what are seen as ‘nice to haves’ explicit, in order to make sure you don’t receive responses from TMCs who simply cannot provide you with all of your ‘must haves’. This will also allow you to quickly rule out any suppliers who aren’t the right fit, giving you more time to talk to those that are worth pursuing.

4. Limits
Specify page limits and formats to ensure that a) everyone has a level playing field and b) that there is a limit to the reams of pages you will read, as this will force suppliers to be concise and to the point.

5. Clarity
Make the process clear – you can expect to receive some clarification questions and should therefore have a plan on how you intend to receive and respond to these. It’s often easier if you create a table of Q&As and release this at regular intervals, with any new questions and responses added – it’s also worth clearly highlighting the date they were added so that tenderers can see what’s new.

6. Meet
Crucially, make sure you meet with as many potential providers as you can before releasing your tender to give you an idea of who you think can meet your requirements, rather than sending your tender out to all and sundry and realising on page 20 of a response that they’re just not the right partner for you.

If you need help to shape your tender or some inspiration as to the kinds of things you should be asking your potential TMC, we have compiled a list of example RFP questions here.

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