How to Issue an RFP - Tips from a Vendor

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | May 2022

An illustration of a person with stacks of paper and a checklist.

The proposal management process is vital for organizations, yet a daunting one to pull off! According to RFPIO, over 85% of proposal managers work more than 40 hours a week, and 11% work more than 50 hours.

While some proposal managers create RFPs manually, others use more advanced technology like RFP creation software. Though the process is tedious, you still have to put your best foot forward because your organization's success depends on it.

The RFP should be well written without leaving out critical details. This way, you'll find the right vendors to vet for the products or services your organization needs. The RFP creation process is daunting because so much is involved.

This is why we've put together this guide. We've seen a lot of RFPs over the years, and we're here to help you create a better RFP to get better results. So let's get to it!

What is an RFP?

An RFP, also known as a request for proposal, describes a project's needs and requests for solutions from qualified vendors. A well-written RFP is a prerequisite for successful projects.

Why are RFPs used?

RFPs go a long way in the procurement process. Regardless of the nature of your organization, some things you can't do on your own because of time constraints. Instead, it would be best if you considered outsourcing specialized external help to boost your productivity.

RFPs are a criterion used to decide the most qualified vendor for a project. You can't use RFPs in any project. Minor projects require RFQs (request for quotations).

RFPs are also used for transparency and accountability in the procurement process. Following RFP due processes allows all qualified vendors to submit a proposal without favoritism. The best part is the selection process is based on vendors' experience and ability to handle the project.

RFP Origin and History

RFPs have been around since the 19th century, though they were not as advanced as what organizations use today. Below is the breakdown of RFP history over the years!

  • Before RFPs, businesses depended primarily on peer referrals to determine the most suited vendors. But as technology advanced and demand increased, peer recommendations became flawed.
  • In the 1880s, businesses started to solicit bids from vendors by publishing simple notices in newspapers and trade publications.
  • In the 1960s, governments and private organizations started to use telephones, fax machines, and mail to solicit bids from vendors.
  • In the early 2000s, the RFP process digital transformation started. Businesses started to send RFPs through email as spreadsheets and Word documents.
  • Today, organizations leverage RFP software and cloud-based technology.

RFP Roles and Responsibilities

The process of creating an RFP doesn't happen in isolation. Below are the different RFP roles and their responsibilities!

  • RFP consultant - understand organization needs and help articulate the end goal.
  • Board and staff - identify the needs of the organization. 
  • Procurement - coordinates the creation of the RFP.
  • Organization stakeholders - determine what key factors should be considered. They may also be involved in scoring the RFP responses. 
  • Financial officer and development director - evaluates cost and ROI. 

Steps to RFPs

Creating an RFP can be daunting, especially when you don't know how to create it. But we got you covered. Below are the RFP steps to follow!

1. Gather requirements

The first step is about gathering business requirements like purpose and goals. You'll also want to set the criteria for evaluating responses from vendors. This step is best achieved through collaboration by different stakeholders involved in the RFP process. 

2. Create a SWOT analysis

The SWOT analysis determines the RFP formulation process's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It's a strategic planning method for determining current and future threats to your project.

3. Write your RFP

Writing your RFP shouldn't be a hassle after conducting a SWOT analysis. Remember to keep the RFP simple to make the responses evaluation process more straightforward. One way to do this is by phrasing questions in a Yes / No format.

The RFP should include a budget range to weed vendors out easily. Lastly, a cover letter detailing your organization's culture and what you can do also goes a long way for vendors.

4. Create a scoring system

A scoring system is a weighted scale reflecting your priorities. For example, you can use a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. You can create a Google sheet with the following information to evaluate and score vendors quickly.

  • Budget
  • Timeline
  • Quality of proposal? Did they answer your questions?
  • Design aesthetic alignment (1 - 5 score)
  • Functionality / integrations alignment (1 - 5 score)
  • Secret sauce (Bonus points! Does the vendor want to work with you? Are they excited about your project?
  • References

5. Solicit Bids

There are two primary ways to solicit bids. You can use your network or trusted online communities. If time permits, short, pre-RFP conversations about your project can result in better responses. 

6. Conduct the initial evaluation

Conducting the initial evaluation helps weed out less serious vendors. It would be helpful if you asked the following questions.

  • Did the vendor answer on time?
  • How long has the vendor been in business?
  • Do they have relevant experience?
  • What is the vendor's reputation in the industry?

Lastly, you should rate all vendors on the same criteria for fairness.

7. Shortlist vendors

Next, you should shortlist as many vendors as you want based on the initial evaluation criteria. This way, you have plenty of vendors to consider in your final selection.

8. Finalize your selection

It's recommended to hold an in-person meeting to finalize your selection. This way, you'll have a one-on-one moment interaction with the finalists. Remember to settle for the most suitable vendor based on your preferences to guarantee project success!

9. Complete contract process

Lastly, complete the process by signing a binding contract to hold both parties accountable!

Considerations for a Website RFP

A website RFP is a document proposal describing a website design or redesign project needs. The RFP is created to ask for proposals from qualified website developers. Here's an example of a Website RFP. Below is a list of what to consider when creating a website RFP!

  • Your audience
  • Website analytics
  • Branding, design, and UX
  • Integrations and functionality
  • Content
  • CMS
  • SEO / accessibility
  • Data, analytics, and reporting
  • Hosting
  • Support and future growth

How to Issue an RFP | Wrapping Up

The process of creating an RFP is complex and time-consuming. It can be a nightmare if you don't know how to create one or lack the resources. The good news is, that's where this guide comes in handy! Our goal is to help you create a better RFP for better results. So, don't hesitate to contact us for further assistance.

Topics: Nonprofit Help