RFP 101: What Is the Purpose of an RFP?

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A Request for Proposal, or RFP, is a document that a business, non-profit, or government agency creates to outline the requirements for a specific project. They use the RFP process to solicit bids from qualified vendors and identify which vendor might be the best-qualified to complete the project.

Why Do Organizations Create RFPs?

By detailing your organization’s needs in an RFP, you can better gauge how well each vendor understands your project. For government agencies and non-profits, RFPs help ensure transparency and show the public they are accountable for project goals and vendor choices. Writing an RFP also forces organizations to create benchmarks they can use later to measure a project’s success.

How Does the RFP Process Work?

Organizations usually follow slight variations of these steps:

Determine what matters most: Set the scoring criteria you will use to select a vendor by deciding what matters most: a vendor’s cost estimate, skill set, or references and reviews. Doing this before publicly releasing your RFP reduces the number of proposals you must seriously consider and makes it easier to rank them.

Create the RFP: Identify the needs for the project, including the specific information listed in the section below. To help vendors understand your proposal, edit it with software like WordRake to make sure you have explained your requirements clearly and concisely, so the bids you receive will more likely align with your organization’s mission.

What Should You Include in an RFP?

Although each RFP will vary according to the needs and goals of a project, most include the same categories of information:

  • The history of an organization
  • A detailed description of the project, including the reason it was created and the results you desire
  • Specific requirements about preferred materials, tools, systems, and/or products
  • The budget
  • The project deadline, along with clearly defined milestones and dates
  • Questions you would like the respondents to answer or additional details you would like them to provide
  • The submission deadline, contact information, and guidelines to submit proposals

Other websites also offer helpful RFP resources. ”Entrepreneur’s Library of Business Templates” includes a sample RFP. “Nonprofit Guides” gives examples of both private and public RFPs and proposals.

What Do You Do When You Finish Your RFP?

Share the RFP: Give vendors plenty of time to find and respond to your RFP by providing it to them online, via trade news outlets, and in field-specific settings.

Negotiate with the vendor you select: Once you award the project to a vendor, review the cost of each line item with that vendor and negotiate further to lower the bid.

The RFP process can feel complicated and time-consuming, but by specifying your needs to vendors in a well-written RFP, you can find the best vendor for a project. Writing is always difficult, and trying to communicate details in an RFP can be even harder. WordRake’s mission is to help you make your writing clear and concise so you can do this quickly and effectively. You can try WordRake free for a week here.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."