Procurement processes: future-proofing on a budget

Procurement processes: future-proofing on a budget

18th May 2021

By Ron Moody

Money, money, money. It may or may not make the world go round, but it certainly drives many organisations’ procurement processes.

All too often, charities and public sector bodies assessing the MEAT (aka the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’) forget about quality and purpose in their bid to lower costs. That’s a big mistake.

As well as being cost-conscious, your charity needs to be forward-thinking and values-driven. By putting people at the heart of your procurement process, you can choose the right partner for your journey.

The public procurement process

If your charity provides services on behalf of a local authority, you’ll know what it’s like to be on the sharp end of a procurement process. No doubt you’ve been peeved by all the box-ticking, and the apparent assumption that bigger is always better. 

Well, the government agrees. It’s now reviewing public procurement policy, promising to stimulate the UK’s post-pandemic recovery by opening up contracts to more small businesses, social enterprises and charities.

As the foreword to its new green paper states: ‘For too long, modern and innovative approaches to public procurement have been bogged down in bureaucratic, process-driven procedures. We need to abandon these complicated and stifling rules and unleash the potential of public procurement so that commercial teams can tailor their procedure to meet the needs of the market.’ 

‘Process toppling purpose’

But, the Lloyds Bank Foundation claims that the gov’s green paper is missing key opportunities.

Its policy and national programmes manager, Caroline Howe, says: “In trying to simplify the rules, the government proposes bringing together lots of different rules into one.

“The collateral damage in doing so is to assume that purchasing paper clips for Whitehall requires the same process as funding wrap-around support for someone facing homelessness in Port Talbot […] But these are fundamentally different things; they require fundamentally different approaches. Yet again, we are seeing process topple purpose.”

In my experience, the same can sadly be said of many otherwise admirable charities.

Charities’ procurement processes

Of course, charities need fair and transparent procurement processes, with clearly stated criteria. And I do understand the pressures that cash-strapped charities are under to stick to strict budgets.

But when drawing up your criteria, it’s short-sighted to put the cost of procurement at the very top. You risk ending up with services that are spread too thinly, failing to address the real needs within a community.

To quote Ms Howe: “Getting the new approach to procurement right is critical to ensuring people have access to the person-centred, specialist support they need – particularly for those people facing complex social issues.” 

So, if you’re currently going through the procurement planning and budgeting process, make sure to keep a goal in mind. 

Future-proofing your charity

I don’t need to tell you how hard the Covid-19 pandemic has been for charities. And we’re not out of the woods yet.

According to the latest Charity Risk Barometer, over half of charity leaders cite loss of funding as their top concern for the next year. Looking five years’ ahead, their main fear is that their organisation might not survive.

Needless to say, then, now’s a critical time for the charity sector, and it’s tempting to cut costs wherever possible. But that would be a false economy.

One corner you must never cut is to check the soundness of a potential partner’s finances; at Connect Assist, we’ve had to step in to support charities left in the lurch when their outsourcing partner collapsed. Click here to read some of these success stories.

Forging the right partnership

Procurement is not just a box-ticking exercise, but a process that should be driven by your charity’s vision, mission and values.

At Connect Assist, we want to forge long-term partnerships with charity clients that put people at their heart.

If you think we’re the right partner for you but have cost concerns, talk to us. We can work together on benchmarking and phasing up costs to find an agreement that works for you, us, and most importantly, the people you support.


If you need our help in developing more effective, meaningful connections with customers, get in touch today.