Did you know there is an art to writing a good Request for Proposal (RFP)? A well written and informative RFP will generate thoughtful proposal responses to your specs and criteria and will ultimately help guide you in choosing the right vendor for your nonprofit's next project. A poorly written RFP, on the other hand, which doesn’t provide basic information like Project Scope, Objectives, Target Audiences, Timelines, and Budget or asks the wrong questions can turn the RFP process into a nightmare and end up wasting your time.
As Partner of an online communications firm, I receive and read a variety of RFPs weekly. This gives me a unique perspective into how RFPs need to be written to generate competitive bids. The following is my personal guide to writing the best RFPs.
Provide Organizational Background
Educate the vendor on the background and mission of the organization. This should not exceed 1-2 short paragraphs.
Lay Out The Project Scope
Define the purpose of the project such as a website redesign, an online marketing campaign, etc. This should be followed by a project description which details what you are looking to achieve. For example, if the RFP is for a website redesign, discuss what a successful redesign will accomplish for your nonprofit internally and externally.
Define The Core Objectives And Any Functional Requirements
It's important to be very specific in this section and list goals and/or requirements. For example, if the RFP is for an online marketing and advertising campaign – discuss any branding and recruitment goals, target markets, etc. Also, inform the vendor if they will be expected to develop the creative from scratch as well manage the ad buys. However, if the RFP is for a website redesign, this section should list functional requirements and key features. All of these items are essential information for vendors to develop a realistic budget, so pay special attention to this section.
Discuss The Target Audiences
Is your nonprofit's target audience comprised of politicos, pro-choice women ages 25 to 40, senior citizens, college students, residents of Oakland, California etc? The more insight you can provide to your target audiences the better.
List A Budget
It's always a good practice to provide vendors a budget framework to work within and list what you expect the budget will cover such as all design and creative, licensing fees, etc. Also, feel free to ask vendors to provide a line item budget. This budget breakdown approach can be helpful to your decision-making process.
Clearly Define Proposal Guidelines And Requirements
Use this section to discuss what the proposal should include like references, a portfolio, staff bios and roles within the organization, etc. Be sure to include deadlines and any specific formats you would like to receive the proposal in.
Outline Vendor Qualifications
Communicate what your nonprofit is looking for in a vendor. For example, for a web development RFP, list any expertise you require for certain content management systems or expertise in programming languages like Python.
Define Contract Terms
If your nonprofit has contract terms, briefly list them. This section should be a summary and not look like a contract.
Briefly list how proposals will be evaluated.
List your contact information so vendors can contact you if they have any questions.
Good Questions to Ask Vendors In The RFP?
- What is your process for achieving our objectives? For example, if it was a website redesign RFP you would ask a vendor to outline their Discovery, Development, and Deployment process.
- Provide 3-4 references that you have done work for that is similar to our nonprofit’s project.
- Please provide a company profile and list your core competencies.
- Discuss any vendor relationships you are proposing as part of this proposal.
- What is your testing and support plan?
While this seems like a lot of information to pack into an RFP, these suggestions are meant to be used as a guideline for any nonprofit’s RFP process. It will also help stakeholders involved in the process focus their priorities and goals and clearly communicate them to perspective vendors.