An Invitation For Bid (IFB) is a document that a government entity uses to solicit bids from contractors in the marketplace and are oftentimes electronically transmitted via email from the federal government, to contractors during the market research phase of the procurement cycle. The best way to set yourself up to receive IFBs from the government is to be sure to complete your necessary registrations and profiles thoroughly. They are often received by contractors via email, even if they are not posted for public competition.

IFBs are common for large projects like construction, land development, and more but are used in other industries for smaller contracts as well. These are especially common when procuring under the Simplified Acquisition Procedures (SAP) threshold. The Government has strict guidelines on who can participate in the bidding process; they must be registered with the System for Award Management (SAM), and have completed certain other requirements before submitting their bid proposal.

To obtain this type of invitation you will need to register with SAM first – validate your entity, fill out your profile, answer questions about your company’s history, provide financial information, and then submit it for review (IRS Validation/ CAGE Validation). Be sure to complete the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) profile to be found early in the marketing research phase of the procurement cycle for best results, upon registration in SAM.

Once your SAM registration is approved, your CAGE code will become “Active” and your small business is eligible to bid on federal contracts or respond to IFBs, Sources Sought Notices, Requests for Quote (RFQ) or Requests for Proposals (RFP).

There are two types of requests: Open and Restricted. Open means that the Invitation for Bid will be available to all contractors; it is open to everyone. Restricted invitations are only sent to pre-qualified companies (those who have already passed an Integrity Check.)

Once you receive your invitation, make sure you keep up with the bid review process since there may be deadlines and other requirements beyond what is stated in the invitation.

The bottom line is this: if you are a small business that wants to provide goods and services to the government, Invitation for Bid Requests can be your best opportunity! You just have to follow their rules and learn how it works.

Pros of an Open IFB

–     There is a pre-set price for the project which ensures no contractor gets gouged and also guarantees you know what you’re getting into ahead of time. You can plan your budget accordingly as well as look at prices from other companies to ensure that you aren’t overpaying.

–     You can set your bid based on all the information you have about the project and know exactly how much effort will be required to complete it. This ensures that no one wastes time working on a project they won’t win, and also sets expectations ahead of time so everyone knows what is expected from them before any work begins.

–     There are no last-minute changes to the project. This ensures that all companies will be working on the same specifications and there won’t be any confusion or meetings about what everyone is supposed to do for this particular task.


Cons of an Open IFB

–     As with anything, if you’re not invited, then you’re not invited. This means that sometimes the government only wants certain companies to bid on projects and you may never even know about them unless they call you directly or ask if your company is interested in a particular project.

–     You can’t negotiate anything until after all bids are submitted and evaluated which takes time away from trying to get the best price for your project.

–     If the government doesn’t like any of the bids submitted, they can cancel everyone’s contracts and start over again which means you could waste all that time spent preparing a bid only to have it canceled at the last minute or not win because another company was chosen instead.

Conclusion: Even with these potential downsides, there are still a lot of benefits to having an open IFB. If you do decide that this is the type of project for your company then make sure you have everything ready ahead of time and submit your bid as soon as possible so it has the best chance at being chosen by the government.


Restricted Invitation for Bid (IFB)

A restricted IFB is an invitation for bids that is limited to a specific list of pre-qualified bidders. These companies are often detected through the government’s market research in places like DSBS and other sources. It doesn’t necessarily help you win or lose the bid, but if your company has not done business with the federal government before it may be difficult to obtain this type of contract if you’re not appropriately registered in all pertinent federal databases.

A restricted IFB means there are time limitations on how long you have to respond to the bid, which can put a lot of pressure on your company.

In addition, there may be limitations on who you are allowed to contact for information about this type of contract. For example, if you have been awarded a GSA schedule or SBA small business program designation and would like some help understanding how it relates to this invitation for bid, you are allowed to contact your representative or agency specialist.

However, if the invitation for bid has not been categorized as restricted then it means that anyone can respond and should be treated like any other request for proposals (RFP). The first step is reading through carefully and following all instructions on how to prepare a response.

There may be a time limit on how long you have to respond, but there is no need for any pre-qualifications and the RFP should be treated like any other.

If your company has never bid on federal contracts before then it’s important that you start by signing up with SAM so you can get started bidding right away!



In conclusion, an invitation for bid from the federal government is a great way to win a contract and is often the best choice for companies that are new to bidding.

The government can save money when they work with established businesses, but also benefits from bringing in new players who have fresh ideas on how to improve their projects. If you’re interested then make sure you sign up so you don’t miss out on any opportunities.