Pace yourself! 6 Rules for a Realistic Proposal Calendar

proposal management Aug 06, 2021
Realistic Proposal Calendar

Build a Proposal Calendar with an Effective Schedule Without Burning Out Your Team

Uh-oh – the RFP or solicitation was released today, and the team is not ready! What to do next? One of the most important things you can do is set up a proposal calendar to keep the proposal effort moving forward expeditiously without burning out your team. A realistic proposal calendar will ensure your team meets every important benchmark between now and submission but won't expect that they accomplish everything overnight.  So how do you build one?

Take a breath

It's really easy to feel overwhelmed at the start of a proposal -- especially if the solicitation didn't come out when you expected it to. There's so much to do! But effective teams will recognize the value in using the time allotted smartly to develop their response. Read and then re-read the solicitation from start to finish before you plan anything.


Begin at the End

Start with what you know! The first items to establish on the proposal calendar are the solicitation release date, the questions due date, and the proposal due date. Generally, most government opportunities have a 30-day deadline (or less). Counting backward, set the proposal submission date for one business day before the actual proposal due date to account for any last-minute issues (and also comply with FAR 15.208!). Be sure to note the actual submission day and time as well (ensure correct time zone). Then, save the day or two before your submission date for final editing/production and if your company requires it, Final Approval by the submission authority.

Protect some downtime

Unless you are dealing with an abbreviated response time, go ahead and safeguard your weekends and holidays. Yes, really! Mark these on your calendar so you know not to schedule important deadlines or reviews for these days (if you can avoid it). Your team will appreciate having a little breathing room in the schedule!

Plan your content reviews

We generally recommend a minimum of three reviews: one of the Template/Outline, one of the First Draft, and one of the Revised Draft. [Check out our FastProp system to learn more about what each of these entails!] Depending on the size of your team, your level of Pre-RFP preparedness, and the complexity of your response, you may need more or less than these. As a rule of thumb, evenly space these review sessions (plan for one a week in a 30-day response window) and be sure to give writers at least 3-4 days after each review session to recover and revise accordingly. *Pro Tip: If your timeline allows, you may want to build in an extra day or two between the Outline Review and First Draft review, as this is when most of the heavy-lifting is done by the writers.

Mark your writing deadlines

Set the writers’ deadlines (also called "Pens Down") for at least 12-24 hours before the Review dates so that you have time to do an internal review, consolidation, and formal tech edit on the document(s) prior to sending your content out for feedback.

Schedule supporting meetings and/or deadlines

A lot of decisions go into a successful proposal, so don't forget to carve out time for your Pricing Reviews, Subcontractor Kick-Off Meeting (if needed), Data Call due dates, and Final Pricing Submission due dates (since sometimes subcontractors must submit their proposals separately from the prime). Finally, go back to the beginning of your calendar and set a Bid or No Bid date for as early as practical. 


Backward planning is key to establishing an initial proposal calendar. Do not assume writers will work on weekends – stick to weekday events at the start. Flexibility and buy-in from proposal leadership are also essential features, as dates may shift as the proposal moves forward. Nothing is set in stone except the final submission date, and even that is sometimes extended with amendments!

Need help keeping your proposal team in sync and on track? Interested in learning more about how using FastProp can increase your pWin and reduce the stress of writing proposals? Contact us today -- we have experts standing by to help!

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