Request for Proposals (RFPs) are a critical tool for nonprofits seeking services from vendors or consultants. A well-crafted RFP attracts the right partners and lays the foundation for successful projects.
Pulling from experience with thousands of RFPs, Prosal shares five best practices to enhance your RFP writing process. Each tip includes additional resources and ideas for getting the best experience for any RFP or hiring your next partner.
1) Start with Research Before an RFP
The RFP really should be the second step in your process. Before you even start drafting your RFP, invest time in thorough research.
Talk to peers about their experiences with similar projects. Engage in online forums, email listservs, and directly with vendors or agencies. Read other RFPs to understand what works. This preparatory step ensures you create an informative document that minimizes back-and-forth queries, leading to more precise proposals.
Here are some essential tips to kick off your project successfully:
- Meet with whoever will be impacted by the project (staff, stakeholders, supporters) to integrate all ideas and opinions at the start.
- Use resources like Google and professional networks to ask questions.
- Outline a specific need or problem and what the ideal outcome of your project looks like.
You can find even more tips and ideas about preparing the research stage in this brief webinar recap on Writing Great RFPs for Nonprofits:
2) Include a Budget in the RFP
RFP budget transparency is the salary transparency battle of the consulting world. It’s a topic Prosal writes tirelessly about and where you will find some of our strongest passions.
Transparency about your budget is crucial. Outlining a budget range aligns expectations with potential service providers. It respects their time and yours by filtering out mismatched bids, leading to realistically tailored proposals to your financial capabilities.
To ensure there is budget transparency, you should:
- Identify financial boundaries internally and externally that align with your expectations and goals
- During the research process, ask how much similar projects at comparable organizations cost.
- Include a specific budget or budgetary range in your final published document (flexibility is OK and can be encouraged)
3) Offer Engagement Opportunities with Consultants
Too often, OOO emails are the automatic reply when an interested consultant reaches out with a question. It’s incredibly demoralizing! Put yourself in our shoes – would you spend 10-20 hours on a project if the person you’re sharing it with won’t give you time to answer a question?
If you want to make yourself available to interested consultants, you might:
- Consider scheduling office hours or a pre-bid meeting to address common questions and meet interested parties
- Regularly update all candidates if there are changes in the RFP process
- Ensure you’re not setting out-of-office replies during the proposal period. If you are OOO, don’t identify yourself as the point of contact.
If you prefer to meet with consultants directly, consider a Request for Conversations.
4) Allow 2-4 Weeks Response Time
Provide a reasonable timeframe, ideally 2-4 weeks, for respondents to submit their proposals. This period allows agencies, consultants, and vendors to craft thoughtful, detailed responses and shows respect for their time and workload. If you put in the work for the first three tips, you’ll get the best proposals possible!
Why This Works:
- More time encourages more considered and detailed proposals.
- You demonstrate an understanding of the providers’ time constraints.
- The proposals you receive will be of much higher quality.
5) Broaden Your Reach When Sharing
Don’t limit your RFP to your immediate network. Expand your reach by sharing it with different groups, listservs, and affinity networks. Publish your RFP on Prosal, a platform dedicated to connecting nonprofits with top-tier consultants and agencies.
There is no shortage of reasons why this matters, but ultimately, it will increase your chances of finding the best fit for your project and a diversity of candidates and ideas from which to choose.
Crafting an effective RFP is a skill that can significantly impact the success of your nonprofit’s projects. By following these best practices, you can attract the right partners who understand and are excited about your mission.
Ready to find the perfect match for your project? Submit your RFP to Prosal today and connect with a network of skilled consultants and agencies eager to collaborate with you on your next big venture.