Hello from the real world!

Round Table has learned a great deal over the nearly two-decades of delivering procurement services to the nonprofit sector. It is the wisdom gained from these experiences that guides our approach, empowers our processes and informs our decisions, so we can continue to offer quality solutions for our clients. We'd like to share some of that wisdom with you.



In 2018, Round Table Procurement Services was engaged to help the YMCA of Lethbridge with two center openings: one licensed childcare facility and one Health, Fitness & Aquatics Centre. The RTPS was team given a list of a few thousand items related to Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FFE) that needed to be purchased for these facilities.
It was a wide ranging list...

... of supplies that comprised of everything from workout equipment, toys, sporting goods, computers, pool gear to various differnet types of furniture and every basic office supply concievable. The breadth of this list created significant complexities in the way of unique factors to consider and engaging and managing many suppliers from different industries.

Action Taken
Using historical data from past YMCA builds across Canada, The RTPS team put together an FFE template that all stakeholders could use as a shared starting point. This template tracked the decision-making status, costs, and budget for each of those many line items. The template even included manufacturers specifications (“specs”) which later became YMCA standards.
The RTPS team put in significant upfront time to ensure all nuanced requirements were captured from each stakeholder group - saving time by avoiding any ‘back and forth’ over the long run. They also categorized, prioritized and created timelines for all procurement activities using a variety of tools and methods and aided stakeholders in their final selections, including touring furniture suppliers to pick out chairs. When there were construction delays, the RTPS team re-engaged vendors to re-schedule deliveries - making life easy for the YMCA team.

The Result
YMCA Lethbridge - the third largest YMCA in Canada - was about to fully equip the Cor Van Raay YMCA and the Round Street Early Learning Childcard Center with everything necessary for a successful opening, all the while staying under budget! And the savings that were realized could be spent on programming - which they’re in the process of doing now!


Early in 2019, a YMCA of Alberta needed to re-evaluate their current food supplier relationship. Their food spending needed to be looked at as their costs "seem to go up each year” for both their overnight camps and childcare facilities.

After Round Table completed a Spend Analysis, it was determined that food was indeed the highest operational spend category within their organization!
At the time the YMCA was “sole sourcing” from a single supplier. Unfortunately, due to intermittent lack of supply, staff was often forced to buy what they needed from grocery stores (at a premium). It was clear something had to change.

Action Taken
Round Table worked with subject matter experts (SMEs) from the Camp and Childcare departments to determine exactly what was being purchased from the incumbent supplier. This was done primarily so that other suppliers could provide quotes for the same or similar items. SMEs provided invoices to create a “top spend list”. This list showed that other suppliers could be more economical than the incumbent, with initial findings of upwards of 28% in potential savings.
Two revisions of this list were done to get as “apples-to-apples” a comparison as possible for the product they purchased most often. One additional requirement the SMEs established was an assurance from potential new vendors that the level of value-added services (such as menu help, shows, training, Food Safety Certifications) they received from the current supplier would also available should they need to make a switch.

The Result
When the $274,500 in "hard costs” savings were combined with the $82,500 in “soft costs” savings, the west coast YMCA saved a total of $357,000 over the next year.
Camp staff reported they were happy they had two suppliers to depend on while Childcare staff were “happy [they] got to keep [their] existing partner.”


In 2019, Janet Grant, Director of Events at MaRS, decided she needed to bring in external expertise to assist in handling a few procurement projects. A member of her finance team had previously worked with RTP, thought they might be a good fit and highly recommended them.

As a Broader Public Sector (BPS) entity, the organization needed to go through a formal bidding process for the hospitality services they required. On the top of the list were three categories that needed immediate attention: event staffing, event furniture rentals and catering. The proposal was that RTPS would “take care of all our needs” in terms of that bidding process.

Action Taken
The RTPS team came in "fully loaded”, equipped with all the tools and templates needed to successfully manage the RFP process for each of the aforementioned categories.

The MaRS team found the process to be very thorough and professional, stating that the “pressure was taken off the internal team” while still allowing them to “contribute meaningfully so we could find the right supplier for our needs.”

The Result
“Everyone was prepared to buy into the outcome because of the positive experience of the process. Everyone's opinions were aligned and the decision making process was was well-understood and well-articulated, and everyone felt good about the final decisions.”


A little while ago, the camp team at the YMCA had a little person on staff. Unfortunately, the uniform that the camp team would wear was not offered in a size that would comfortably accommodate the staff member. So, they engaged the RTPS team to figure out a solution.

The RTPS team worked with the Camp team and the vendor to develop a uniform program. We oversaw the development of the clothing that was to be used and had the vendor manufacture a uniform that would fit the staff member. And at no charge to the YMCA. The vendor’s commitment to the organization and to the principle of inclusion - ensuring that all camp staff were outfitted with the exact same apparel - really got the attention of YMCA decision makers. The result was a very happy staff member who was made to feel a part of the team as well as a strengthened relationship between the YMCA and vendor.

The Preferred Supplier Program allows nonprofits to take advantage of tailor-made supplier deals on a long and ever-increasing list of products and services from reputable providers.
This service is especially helpful for small and mid-sized nonprofits but it is completely free for any and all nonprofits to take advantage of.

Become a member today:



In this age of digital media, it might be easy to tag print as an ‘old-school’ way to communicate, but that would be a mistake. Whether it’s annual reports, brochures or program materials, the printed word is alive and well in the nonprofit sector!

Still, the media industry has evolved and printing companies have responded with more sophisticated services to meet more nuanced needs. But not all print suppliers have responded equally. Through our work with clients, Round Table has had the opportunity to work closely with high quality print suppliers in Canada. Whether you need a simple re-order of business cards, postcards, brochures, banners etc. or you’re looking to create a new campaign, we have seen how a good print strategy that includes a strong supplier partner can be invaluable in having your message stand out from the crowd.

Three things to look for in a print supplier:

  1. Value-Add Services:
    Creating complementary print and digital assets can help your nonprofit meaningfully engage a broader audience. This “trans-media” approach is considered best practice by marketing experts. But, as with many new ideas: easier said than done. This is where a high-quality print supplier comes in handy. The best suppliers provide design support and other value-add services that can help your team execute a transmedia campaign.

  2. Modern Technology:
    Fresh ideas, new finishes and environmentally-friendly options abound! We recommend nonprofits consider suppliers who use modern print technology, inks and paper that will deliver a clean, consistent end product and achieve a high visual impact with low environmental impact. The proliferation of automation technology has also reached the print industry, making service delivery more efficient and more focused on quality.

  3. Delivery Options:
    In our whitepaper ‘Shop Smart: Choose Delivery over Drop-in’, we discussed the value of delivery when it comes to purchasing office supplies for nonprofits. The same rings true for print materials. Print suppliers that give you the option of ordering online, by phone or by email, as well as convenient tracking methods, will save you time and money and allow you to focus on serving your community.

Print ain’t dead - it’s just different!

Through our work with leaders in the sector, we observed that print services is an area ripe with opportunity for improved spending. It’s one of the most common categories of spending amongst nonprofits and it can get expensive. Often we have seen print services take up a bigger portion of the budget than any other purchase category within nonprofits. This is made worse in the case of small nonprofit organizations who don’t require a large enough total printing volume for suppliers to be able to offer price discounts. We know it’s possible for nonprofits to get better return on their print services spending.

There’s no doubt we live in a digital age but the Print industry has definitely stepped up its game. It’s worthwhile for your organization to reconsider how it uses printing services and the suppliers it partners with to get the job done.

RTPS can help you find a great supplier.

The Preferred Supplier Program allows nonprofits to take advantage of special high-value purchase agreements (deals!) on an ever-increasing list of products and services from reputable providers. This service is great news for small and medium nonprofits and is completely free!

Become a member today:


Most Canadians would agree that September tends to come with sense of a fresh start. Every fall, organizations of all kinds begin to gear up for the craziness that follows. Sun-kissed employees return to work with a renewed motivation to make headway on their social mission. This “back to business” mentality often comes with thoughts of restocking on office supplies for the coming months.

It’s one of the reasons why office supply companies experience the greatest demand during August and September. As you and your organization think about stocking up for the fall (or any other season for that matter) we encourage you to consider an important purchasing Best Practice: have your supplies delivered!

Top three reasons why delivery beats drop-in:

  1. Quality:
    A lot of retail shopping takes place in stores known for their low price – dollar stores and WalMart in particular. The concern here is with the quality of the products that you’re purchasing. At best, you might be faced with having to replace poor-quality items sooner rather than later. At worst, you could be using items (toys or kitchen supplies, for example) that are not sourced from reliable manufacturers and could carry health-related risks.

  2. Absenteeism:
    People working in the nonprofit sector want to do good work, and it’s often true that the work we do needs to occur in a physical space (centres, offices, camps, etc). Time away from that space usually means time away from the work and the people that need us. Even if staff aren’t required to be in a specific place, time shopping is likely not part of the job or the mission of the organization so it is at least an unnecessary distraction and at most, strategically destructive.

  3. Accounting:
    In-store shopping usually means payment via a credit card or by petty cash. There’s more to know about differences in payment methods, but for now, suffice to say that there are significant advantages to ordering on account via an invoice and paying within agreed payment terms (eg. 30 days later). In addition to the typically lower finance charges, it’s normally more efficient. An invoice often means better capture of data so you can keep track of where your budget is being spent.

It's more than just price - it's total cost!

We have often been surprised by the amount of in-store shopping we our clients are spending precious funds on. While it can be a last-minute solution for an urgent need every now and then, we are concerned with how many organizations are making it regular practice to shop at retail stores for their on-going needs.

There are more reasons to opt for delivery than the top three we’ve covered here and many organizations have made the strategic decision to have supplies delivered and heavily restrict retail shopping. This is because doing so reinforces an overarching best practice that we talk about all the time: the notion of Total Cost. You may save a few dollars at the local discount store, but what is it costing you in terms of lower quality, higher risk and loss of your most valuable resource: staff time? Once you take a total cost approach, you might reconsider the true value of those shopping trips.

RTPS can help you find a great supplier.

The Preferred Supplier Program allows nonprofits to take advantage of special high-value purchase agreements (deals!) on an ever-increasing list of products and services from reputable providers. This service is great news for small and medium nonprofits and is completely free!

Become a member today:


The Wireless Services market is complicated. With ever-changing service options and frequent introductions of new products in the marketplace, knowing what new technology could best enable your staff requires a lot of time and effort. Ensuring that your organization’s current mix of technology and service plans are meeting your needs at the best price requires considerable experience.

It is a daunting task that can either consume a fair amount of your staff’s time, or be out-right ignored.

The fact is that being able to turn to a reliable wireless services provider is like having a good auto mechanic – you need someone that you can trust.

On the next page, we explain why having a trusted wireless service provider is so important in more detail. Even better than that, as part of our Preferred Supplier Program, we have also already identified a really great one for you!

A trustworthy Wireless service provider will:

  1. Expertly analyze the operational needs of your organization:
    Being able to identify and orchestrate the communication and information needs of different departments and staff members within your organization is difficult bullseye to hit. A trusted advisor in the form of a wireless services provider can quickly make sense of your systems and needs (they’ve seen it all before!) The best ones will audit existing services and define opportunities for improvement (both service and cost!)

  2. Neatly match needs to the appropriate (and customized) solution:
    Once your needs have been carefully defined, a trusted wireless services provider can help your organization maximize the value-for-money invested by recommending right-sized solutions.The best providers will keep an eye out for further opportunities for cost savings outside the initial scope of the project such as switching to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) from your existing (and expensive) “landline” phone lines.

  3. Act as a trusted advisor to your organization over the long-term:
    Access to a dedicated account representative - whose job it is to analyze the business needs of its customers - can save your team lots of time, money and headache. This is especially the case if that representative has experience working with nonprofit organizations. A dedicated representative will review and recommend options and answer questions as they arise. This alone adds value to your organization.

The best part is, we’ve already done the searching for you!

As Round Table continues to expand its newest service offering - Preferred Supplier Program - we are constantly on the look-out for suppliers and service providers that deliver high-value products and services most needed by nonprofit organizations.

The important difference between what the Preferred Supplier Program offers and what individual nonprofit organizations can access on their own is the trusted advisor role. The program terms we pre-negotiate with supplier(s) on your behalf of members allow even the smallest NPOs to receive dedicated support in designing the “right-sized” wireless package that meets operational needs in the most cost-effective manner - a valuable service not always available to most nonprofits.

This service is great news for small and medium nonprofits and is completely free!

Become a member today:


We get it – you’re fully committed to delivering on your mission (while somehow staying on budget.) You just need the products and services to be available to you to help you get the job done - without hassle - and go home at a reasonable hour.

The difficulty is that change takes time and an organization’s ability to execute year-after-year is influenced by forces outside of it’s core competencies and specialized knowledge. These secondary considerations, such as expertly-managed spending, can actually help your organization reach its primary goals - making them worthy of renewed focus and attention.

Reviewing purchasing behaviour can lead to many positive outcomes. At a minimum, how your organization manages your supplier selection and management is something you should consider as an indicator (and enabler) of good governance. One area that we regularly find is regularily lacking within many non-profits is the use of good procurement processes and supporting policies. This article will discuss important reasons for examining these areas and why going without is no longer a viable option.

Five Reasons Why You Need Procurement Policies:

  1. To defend a decision:
    Nonprofit and charitable organizations are well aware of the attention paid to how funds are spent. Board of Directors, Funders and Donors, auditors and the general public all care about how money is spent, which extends to caring about how the suppliers hired by a nonprofit were selected. Establishing (and enforcing) good procurement policy - based on best practices - gives nonprofit leaders the confidence to defend the decisions they have made regarding spending.

  2. To ensure quality:
    Many different roles and responsibilities are required in order for a nonprofit to properly operate and deliver on its social mission. This results in many different perspectives on what resources are needed to do so efficiently and effectively. It’s impossible for a single person or unit alone to decide what’s best. Good purchase decisions require input from different stakeholders. Establishing good policy to orchestrate this input can increase decision quality and reduce risk.

  3. To protect reputation:
    The expectations (and need) for fair and transparent selection processes are greater than ever. Donors, funders, government and the general public are unforgiving when it comes to scandals and corruption - real or perceived. How nonprofits select and manage suppliers can impact their public reputation and credibility. Having proper polices in place guides staff on how best to steward supplier relationships and uphold a professional code of conduct.
  4. To operate efficiently:
    Finance professionals within your organization can support program staff on large or complex projects. These projects usually involve highly specialized activities such as researching suppliers, developing documents, creating evaluation tools and writing contracts that most staff rarely (if ever) perform. It’s more efficient for the same few individuals to manage this work across all projects - their expertise will add incremental value. Policiesdefine how and when to engage these “procurement leaders”.
  5. To expand your Network:
    Establishing procedures and supplier evaluation processes help a nonprofit organization ensure that proposed solutions will meet its needs, principles and standards. These processes can help the organization “cast it’s net” further to discover alternative and possibly more appropriate opportunities for partnership. At the very least, gaining knowledge and understanding can increase confidence that existing suppliers are the best choice.

    Procurement policy and procedure is an area of perpetual opportunity for non-profit organizations in Canada. Evaluating - and challenging - how your organization selects and manages suppliers and service providers today is the first step toward best-in-class governance.

We can help you define your policies and more!

Investments made today should benefit your organization for years to come. This includes the investment of time spent evaluating and establishing procurement policies - they should be designed to last!Our approach identifies and implements changes and ensures that benefits have staying power beyond the life of a single cost-saving project.

This service is great news for small and medium nonprofits and is completely free!

Become a member today:


Typically, when people hear the word “procurement”, they imagine hardened negotiators who pressure sellers into discounting their goods and services. And although Procurement Pros are ultimately concerned with reducing cost, their work involves much more than negotiating a lower price.

Virtually every organization must purchase goods and/or services to operate on a dialy basis, but is often limited in terms of what, when and from whom they can buy.
A Procurement Pro maximizes the Value-for-Money an organization gains from the things it DOES buy.

This two-part article aims to, first, clarify what professional procurement looks like and how valuable it can be to any organization and, second, to demonstrate how procurement “fuels” a non-profit’s performance specifically.

By the time you’ve read both parts you will know exactly how procurement maximizes value and be better equipped to identify how procurement could “fuel” your non-profit’s performance.

Procurement professionals fuel performance by...

  1. Expertly evaluating what a product or service is worth from the buyer’s perspective:
    With “off the shelf” products, often there’s little room to negotiate price. However, there are many other value-creation opportunities that a Procurement Pro could reveal. For example, when a software program is priced similarly between vendors, decision makers could consider what additional services could be needed by the organization in the near future. If a given vendor were to become a strategic partner to the buying organization, efficiencies could be created for both parties over time. This is therefore something a Procurement Pro would carefully consider and assign value to during supplier selection. In contrast, greater variability in capabilities and delivery vendor is able to provide less-frequently-needed services directly or whether they would outsource that work to a third party, which adds risk and complexity to the partnership. Pros might ask whether the vendor uses green solutions or a reporting system that ensures requirements are being met - depending on client needs. A Procurement Pro balances what is needed and what is valued with how it will be delivered, what alternatives exists and what it costs to determine how different service options “stack up” from the client’s perspective. Procurement Pros ensure that what the buying organization signs a contract for is exactly what it needs and exactly what it receives. models exists for service categories - which means more opportunity for Procurement Pros to negotiate terms.

  2. Knowledgably work with suppliers to engineer mutually beneficial opportunities
    By facilitating productive discussions between departments, Procurement Pros can help an organization determine what it truly needs to buy. Sometimes however, what is needed is not necessarily offered by an existing or prospective supplier partner…yet. Procurement Pros have the knowledge and skills required to negotiate the development of a new or customization of an existing solution that better meets the needs of the buyer. It’s not uncommon for a supplier to already have something “in the works” that just hasn’t made it to market yet. A Procurement Pro can craft a plan that results in both the buying organization and the supplier partner benefiting from crafting the new offer together.For example, an ordering portal may not be offered by the prospective supplier at the time they are engaged by the buying organization. Procurement Pros can present a case where developing such a portal - and including it in the deal - would benefit the supplier by reducing mistakes and increasing supply chain efficiency - positively impacting their bottomline. It may even be something the buying organization would be willing to pay extra for.The ability to facilitate the purchase of tailor-made products and services is unique to Procurement Pros. They know how to determine what is needed by the buyingorganization and figure out how it might also create value for the selling organization.

  3. Leveraging significant knowledge to identify incremental efficiencies and assurances
    Vendors and suppliers from different industries can differ greatly in terms of seasonality, the degree or amount of “overhead” expense required to operate and how many “players” compete within a given market. These businesses may also measure performance differently and therefore value different aspects of a purchase agreement differently.
    Procurement Pros have the advantage of seeing many times the number of transactions than a single organization would ever need to. This allows them to develop a deep understanding of the differences between industries and between players in the same industry. This arms Procurement Pros with information that strengthen their ability to negotiate efficiently. For example, having insight into energy sector dynamics allows procurement pros to identify opportunities to negotiate on natural gas rates. Even when the price might already seem competitive to the buying organization compared to historical numbers, a Procurement Pro can quickly recognize when more value can be gained by the buying organization.
    The reality is that procurement professionals’ experience the nuance and complexities that are inherent to B2B transacting on a far greater scale than a “generalist” would ever have reason or opportunity to. This accumulation of experience allows Procurement Pros to guide a buying organization with greater efficiency and, often, greater outcomes.

We can help you maximize value!

Nonprofits want supplier solutions that save time, money and stress, while maintaining appropriate levels of quality and service needed to run organizations - with the strategies, tools and training to implement them.

The Preferred Supplier Program allows nonprofits to take advantage of tailor-made supplier deals on a long and ever-increasing list of products and services from reputable providers. This service is especially helpful for small and mid-sized nonprofits but it is completely free for any and all nonprofits to take advantage of.

Become a member today:


Part One of this article outlined how professional procurement practices create value within any organization. Part Two (what you’re reading now) will show how these valuable practices apply to a non-profit organization specifically.

Nonprofit Procurement practices fuel performance by...

  1. Stimulating change while staying socially minded
    Changing the way things are done within an organization can feel scary - especially if the proposed change involves spending funds on products and services that the organization is unfamiliar with. Procurement Pros have the ability to educate decision makers within the organization by presenting alternative approaches for how the change could be implemented. Often this is done by evaluating vendors on how suited they are to facilitate the desired change, provide training so the organization successfully adopts the change and empower the client to develop expertise. Critically, this evaluation will be tailored to the social mission of the non-profit organization. Therefore, the Procurement Pro will consider how well prospective vendors align with the client’s mission and rule out inappropriate options.
    For example, a non-profit organization may see value in leveraging automation to offer a 24-7 helpline through social media. The organization expects this to reduce the need to recruit late night volunteers while simultaneously improving the helpline’s response time and quality. However, that same organization may be concerned with the impact of automation on broader unemployment trends. A Procurement Pro can help that organization systematically evaluate prospective vendors’ ability and willingness to train staff and other community stakeholders in a way that improves their employability as well as negotiate the nitty gritty details of that agreement.

  2. Prioritizing Social Outcomes Above Financial Outcomes
    Trying to keep the lights on while helping others feels easier much easier and more rewarding when contributors can clearly see the positive results of the effort they’ve been putting in.The goal here is to find a vendor partner that will line-up neatly with the client organization’s mission and values. The vendor must understand their client as much as the client must understand their vendor. The right partner will look at the potential long-term relationship and not just the immediate profit of selling a product or service.For example, there are times when negotiations hit a wall of sorts, when a vendor cannot provide any deeper discounts on pricing, or the services offered are limited to scope of the work being performed. In cases like this we can look at what a vendor can offer the client outside of the traditional services they may offer. In one case a vendor was prepared to donate their time by volunteering a full day’s work to the client. In other cases, we have negotiated a commission payed to the client based on total sales revenue.

  3. Giving decision makers confidence in their spending decisions
    Whether you are looking at opening a new office, replacing old office furniture or engaging with an auditing company, it is vitally important to ensure that your choices will be the right ones and that any and all concerns about how much money is being spent are addressed. By incorporating a formal competitive selection process that includes a cross functional selection team, weighted selection criteria and a public posting of an RFP, you are limiting the risk involved and can gain confidence in your spend and make decisions that you won’t regret later. A formal competitive process begins with understanding the client’s need and translating that need into a RFP. Appointing a cross-functional selection team made up of individuals that will be directly impacted by the decision and establishing weighted selection criteria are imperative steps in the process to make sure the right choice is ultimately made. This is our core business at Round Table. We understand needs, help put a selection team together, develop selection criteria and manage communications with vendors, provide evaluation materials and compile the selection committee’s results. All in all, we are involved right up until the agreement is signed to make life easy for our clients.

We can help you maximize walue!

Investments made today should benefit your organization for years to come. This includes the investment of time spent evaluating and establishing procurement policies - they should be designed to last!Our approach identifies and implements changes and ensures that benefits have staying power beyond the life of a single cost-saving project.

The Preferred Supplier Program allows nonprofits to take advantage of tailor-made supplier deals on a long and ever-increasing list of products and services from reputable providers.
This service is especially helpful for small and mid-sized nonprofits but it is completely free for any and all nonprofits to take advantage of.

Become a member today: