RFP writing can be a daunting and involved process. An RFP (or request for proposal) is a document your organization may create in order to seek services for a given task (think: a redesign for your nonprofit website). An RFP provides your organization with the opportunity to express its needs and find the person or firm best suited to execute them. Consider it a dating profile for your nonprofit: you are on the search for that special someone whose capabilities match your criteria perfectly.
As with any form of business communication, RFPs should be concise but still provide plenty of detail. Luckily, there is a straightforward framework you can follow to make sure you’re covering all of your bases.
If you’re totally swamped with grant applications and year-end fundraising, or simply don’t have the time to research how to write an RFP, don’t fret! We’ve compiled our advice and best practices to help you write a perfect one.
Step 1: Determine Exactly What You’re Looking For
The first step, before you even begin writing an RFP, is to know your guiding principles. In other words, be certain of what you require from a proposal and what you will not accept. Take it from us - we’re web design experts. This will help you frame your request to target your exact wants and needs. Also, with this framework in place, you will have a clear understanding of when you’ve found the right candidate for the job.
Take this time to also determine whether your priorities lie more in optimal price or in highest quality. Establish where, if at all, you are willing to compromise. Doing this early will prevent any last-minute surprises and keep you on track for the creation of your ideal web project.
Step 2: Outline Your RFP
Create an outline for your request. To do this, you must first specify which categories you want to include. Usually, an RFP will include some combination of the following categories:
You will want to provide a preliminary explanation of a few things here. Start with a quick organizational overview -- tell people what your organization does, its missions, and specific goals for this project. Explain why you are submitting this request and what needs it will be filling. Identify your target audience, who the project will directly affect, and any additional information a candidate may need to understand the scope of the project. Keep everything high-level in this stage, for you will be delving deeper into detail in the coming sections of your RFP.
Requirements, Scope of Work, and Deliverables
Clarify exactly what you want out of this process. Make all of the specific deliverables known and specify what you will expect through every step of the process. Include every component that you will want from the vendor. The more you include here the better - this will help those submitting proposals know the full scope of work, and will also help you get a more accurate price quote right off the bat. Use this space to include logistical information such as completion dates, budgets, expectations throughout development, rigid requirements versus room for creative liberties, etc.
Delineate your timelines. Let the vendors know how long they have for each step of the process - deadlines for submitting proposals, how long you plan to take in evaluating them, general project timelines, the whole nine yards. Make sure that whoever you choose will be able to meet these deadlines, or is able to suggest an alternative schedule that also fits within your timeframe.
Let applicants know specifically what you are looking for in them. With the high volume of proposals you may receive, defining what you want will ensure that the right people apply and that you are able to easily filter through other criteria. Make your process as straightforward for yourself as possible by requesting examples of previous similar work, references, etc.
Point of Contact & Other Logistics
Include pertinent information such as who on your team vendors should contact with proposals, by what method (physically or digitally), and in which format (PDF, Word document, hard copy, etc.). If there are any other specific things you’d like to receive in your proposals, include them here.
Step 3: Dissemination
One of the largest components of the RFP process is your strategy for getting it out there. Determine first if you want the proposal submission to be open-ended such that anyone who sees it can apply, or if it is to be invite-only to people of your choosing. Next, determine your method of dissemination, be it through snail mail, email, your website, social media posts, or online job forums such as upwork.com.
Getting your RFP in front of the right people ultimately determines the quality of your return, so don't neglect this important step!
Since an RFP for website design will inevitably require a different set of criteria than other types, we’ve included a FREE downloadable template for you to use.
Tweet it, share it with your local or state nonprofit associations, print it out to include in your organization handbooks, or just keep it on hand for future use. We hope you'll find it to be a helpful resource.
As always, let us know if you have any questions or need help throughout this process. Let’s see what we can do together!