A solicitation is a process of notifying prospective or qualified offerors that a school wishes to receive bids or proposals on the specified product or service. A “solicitation document” is a formalization of this process in a written format. Solicitations include request for pricing (i.e. 3 bids and a buy), Invitation for Bid (IFB), and Request for Proposals (RFP), which may be required to be made public through advertising, mailings, or some other method of communication.
Solicitation documents will vary greatly depending on the procurement method chosen. Regardless of procurement method all solicitation documents should contain enough information to permit the potential offeror to submit an adequate response.
Solicitation documents contain the following areas of importance. Schools should not limit themselves to only these elements if additional beneficial elements are identified.
- the name and contact information of the contact person at the school,
- general descriptions of the goods or services to being procured,
- how the goods and/or services will be used,
- eligibility requirements of offerors,
- estimated quantities of goods or services,
- purchasing method (request for pricing (i.e. 3 bids and a buy), Invitation for Bid (ITB), or Request for Proposals (RFP)),
- type of contract (i.e., fixed-price, cost-reimbursable with a fixed fee, total cost bids, or line-item bids),
- payment provisions including invoice and billing procedures, method, and schedule of payments,
- duration of the contract,
- bonding requirements, if applicable, and
- the laws and regulations that govern the procurement and the awarded contract.
- how and who to contact at the school,
- the date and time by which the bid or proposal is due,
- allowable methods for offerors to submit a response (i.e., by mail, hand delivery, fax, electronic mail, in a sealed envelope with the solicitation number and due date and time on the outside),
- a request for the signature of the authorized representative that can bind the offeror contractually,
- pre-bid meeting and conference information, including a notice when attendance is mandatory, if applicable,
- clarification procedures that the school will use to explain the solicitation and respond to questions,
- required forms and certifications that must be completed and submitted with the bid or proposal (i.e., non-procurement debarment and suspension, or anti-lobbying, etc.),
- an explanation of how the school will proceed if a contract cannot be executed with the apparent successful offeror,
- cancellation, withdrawal, and reissuance procedures that the school will use when the solicitation is withdrawn for cause or convenience,
- protest procedures that are available to offerors to resolve disputes, objections, and procurement protests, and
- an explanation of what method and criteria will be used for evaluating responses, including factors and weighting information.
- specifications that describe the required characteristics of the goods and/or services (remember that when one known brand name or product is used as the "quality standard," regulations require the solicitation to say "brand name or equal"),
- cost requirements/pricing mechanism of goods and/or services (i.e., costs will be evaluated based on unit prices);
- offeror's years of experience,
- offeror's past performance,
- delivery terms such as time or days of delivery, unloading and shelving services, distribution of materials, location(s) of delivery, etc.,
- whether subcontracting will be permitted, and
- offeror responsibility.
who clearly indicates compliance without material deviation from the solicitation's terms and conditions, and
who possesses, at the time of contract award, the experience, facilities, reputation, financial resources, and other factors necessary to fulfill the terms of the contract successfully.
the content of the solicitation announcement,
the due date of the offer, and
the manner in which the solicitation will be advertised.
state designated newspapers,
designated Internet sites,
direct mailings to known vendors (see "Note" below), and
other print media that serves the business community and general public.
the general nature of the goods or services to be procured,
the method of procurement that will be used (i.e., informal (3 bids and a buy) or formal (RFP or IFB)),
how they can obtain the solicitation or more information, and
the due date for responses to the solicitation.
the complexity of the solicitation requirements,
the time needed for pre-bid/award meetings, site visits, etc., and
FSMC solicitations for all Child Nutrition Programs, except the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), must be announced at least 21 days (10 days prior to the pre-bid meeting and 10 days after the pre-bid meeting) in advance of the due date,
SFSP FSMC solicitations must be announced at least 14 days in advance of bid opening, and
in absence of applicable State and local rules, other solicitations should be publicly announced at least 21 days before the response is due, unless an emergency or good cause exists for expediting the acquisition.