Many proposal documents have passed over my desk over the years. Some asking me to review them as a favour before they send them to their prospective clients, others hoping that I will recommend them to charities in future, and a few when I held a position within a charity.
Proposals are not the be-all and end-all of an agency, but can be a very useful insight into their culture and results.
I will always check each proposal for language, tone, claims and statistics. If it contains the word ‘sales’ more than the word ‘fundraising’ I suggest a rewrite, and although confidence is key, if it comes off as cocky it’ll get sent back too. The two biggest issues with these documents have always been the claims made and the statistics used to prove them.
The most common claim I have read is “we have industry leading attrition”. Now, this is an extraordinary claim, and as such requires extraordinary evidence. If any agency approaches you with this claim you must, like any good scientist, demand to see the evidence – you will not be disappointed, and often amused.
An agency that understands what attrition is and how it can be measured will not mention this. In fact, most do not as they are aware that it is a falsehood to suggest such a feat.
The two shocking examples that spring to mind gave me their proof. The first said, and I quote “we don’t have any attrition data yet, but when I was a Team Leader at a different company I was told it was quite good”. This was the extraordinary evidence they used to back up their claim, my jar dropped and the tears started to flow.
The second, forwarded an email from a client that read “well done, your attrition over the past month is the second best out of all our agencies”. This is clear evidence that their attrition is not even the best with one client, let alone the industry!
So, please, do not be fooled by these claims. Push back, only believe up-to-date statistics, check references and always ask for the evidence – and if you want to have some fun, ask them what the industry standard is, and how many points they are below it over one, three, six and twelve months.