Before you propose: What’s in a capability statement

Posted on April 18, 2019

The pre-proposal process for bidding on contracts is especially important, and these days, the briefest capability statements are the ones that get noticed. Anything longer than one page (front and back max) is unlikely to be considered.

The anatomy of a capability statement

Capability statements aren’t the same as “About us” pages, although you can display them on your website. They’re more like compressed CVs that list your organization’s services, experience, credentials, and staff biographies in an easily digestible format. Capability statements should include:

  • The organization’s registered name, DBA, logo, and tagline. Use brand-compliant imagery and fonts.
  • Contact information. List the organization’s physical address (with suite number, ZIP code, and general driving area), telephone and fax numbers, email address, and website. Also provide the name, professional title, telephone number, and email address of at least one company executive and/or small business liaison.
  • The organization’s mission/vision statement. Include a one-paragraph definition of what the organization offers and whom it serves. Describe how the organization’s products or services benefit its clients/customers.
  • Core capabilities. This section offers a high-level view of the products or services the organization offers. For example, “Badie Designs’ services include graphic design, marketing, and web design.”
  • Contract vehicles, whether federal, state, or both.
  • Professional associations in which the organization is an active member.
  • Current clearances and certifications for the organization and its staff.
  • Major corporate and government clients served. Include local and government-backed agencies as well as nonprofits, private-sector businesses, and federal and state agencies. Update this list frequently.
  • Partners and authorized resellers.
  • The year and state of the organization’s incorporation.
  • The type of corporation
  • Awards attained within a specified time period, normally the past two years.
  • Differentiators.  A brief illustration of how the organization stands out from its competitors. If possible, harness the power of favorable statistics from the past two years (for example, “During 2018, we won X amount in new engagements and Y amount in recurring work”). Focus on the organization’s unique attributes—perhaps persistence, quick turnaround, or emphasis on high-quality products or services.
  • Client references. Provide the name of each client contact and his or her professional title and organization, along with each contact’s telephone number and email address. Make certain that all references and testimonials are current, ideally within the past two or three years. Be sure to include one or two sentences that describe the work performed.
  • Visually appealing elements. Break up blocks of text with charts/tables, photography, and bulleted lists. Use illustrations to demonstrate your service categories and make process flows easy to understand. Finally, consider displaying logos with each reference rather than presenting client names only in text; logos add sophistication and visual interest. (To avoid copyright issues, always request written permission from clients before using their logos.)

By the numbers

Capability statements should also contain numerical identifiers such as:

  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes
  • Dun & Bradstreet (D-U-N-S) numbers
  • Commercial and government entity (CAGE) codes
  • Product and service codes (PSCs)
  • Taxpayer identification numbers (TINs)

These identification numbers help federal government procurement personnel (and others) determine whether your organization has the right qualifications to place a bid.

Think short, not shoddy

Brevity is no excuse for poor quality; substandard presentation can damage credibility and slash the likelihood that you’ll be asked to bid on a particular contract. Confirm that your capability statement is formatted in the organization’s brand style and promotes readability with uncluttered imagery and textual elements. In addition, seek input from a proofreader before you release the final version.

Less is more

In the age of TLDR—“too long, didn’t read”—capability statements are becoming popular for a reason. They’re a highly versatile way for organizations to promote their services concisely in a crowded marketplace and simultaneously streamline the bidding process. Capability statements can be used as sales sheets and brochures, featured on (and/or downloaded from) the organization’s website, and even summarized on business cards.

In short, a capability statement done right can prepare the ground for a fruitful proposal process. To learn more about creating an effective capability statement for your organization, please contact us.


Division of Acquisition, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How to Write a Good Capability Statement. Retrieved April 5, 2019.

Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, U.S. Small Business Administration. Supplemental Workbook: How to Prepare Government Contract Proposals. Retrieved April 15, 2019.

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