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A Nonprofit’s Guide to RFPs

If your organization is having trouble providing services that meet your ROI targets, maybe it’s time to create an RFP (request for proposal). Investing in an efficient RFP process using best practices can improve your ROI and better your nonprofit’s reputation as a whole. 

Even if you already have an RFP process in place, you might want to double check to ensure it’s in good shape. Here’s a nonprofit’s guide to RFPs. 

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal, and helps a company or organization request services they decide not to tackle in-house. The RFP document gives a description of your organization, outlines the project or service and the desired results, points out milestone expectations and deadlines, and requests bids from outside companies or individuals that can complete the project. 

An RFP will also include guidelines for submissions. These are collected either directly through an organization’s website or email, or through the industry-related outlets and other field-specific websites the request was originally posted to.

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Reasons for an RFP

An organization can have several reasons for creating an RFP. The main reason for this process is to cast a wide net to find the best individual or vendor for your specific needs. Sometimes your policies, your funders’ policies, or even government regulations will require an RFP. Similar to posting a job listing, an RFP will let companies you might not be aware of compete against each other and help you find the perfect vendor for your nonprofit’s particular project. 

RFPs also increase the accountability and transparency of the organization, which can improve their reputation and encourage membership. By adhering to the standard RFP process of public posting, this method for finding services decreases the likelihood of favoritism or a biased hire. When individuals see your RFP publicly posted, with a rundown of your needs and a description of who you are, they’re more likely to see you as a trusted, honest organization.

The process of creating an RFP can also lead to some discoveries on the operations side of your nonprofit. What gaps need to be filled? Can they be filled by an RFP or should you look into a more permanent position? Where can your organization improve, and what steps do you need to take to tackle your goals and drive your mission? An RFP gives you an opportunity to reflect upon your organization and ask yourself these aforementioned key questions.

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Include Detailed Requirements in Your RFP

If you search the internet, you will surely be able to find numerous templates and examples of RFPs for nonprofits. Use these as a helpful starting guide, but remember, your RFP needs to be your own, and every RFP is unique. Be sure to include all of the details of your project, and focus on one project or service request at a time.

Most RFPS include the following sections:

  • Background of your organization
  • Detailed project description
  • Project requirements and objectives (describe your audience, your desired features, integration needs, preferred tools or systems, etc.)
  • Project budget
  • Milestones and deadlines
  • Extra required information or questions for the applicant
  • Contact information and submission instructions/deadline

Have a Scoring Rubric to Grade Responses

Having a strong scoring rubric will help save you time and money in the long run. Crowdsource from your colleagues your project requirements and what would make up the ideal candidate. Draft a scoring rubric with others in your nonprofit. Make sure to include people who will be working closely around the finished service or project in this process. 

Although several ways exist of scoring RFP candidates, a numbered scale is always a good method. When reviewing your RFP responses, assign a 1 to 10 value to each vendor’s strengths, experience, and responses to questions. Review the responses and average out the scores with multiple people in your organization.

Remember, always inspect the references of each individual or company who responds before making your decision.

[Related: Top Skills of Nonprofit Accountants]

Contact Jacobson Jarvis Today!

Jacobson Jarvis has been serving the nonprofit community in the areas of audit, accounting, tax services, and consulting since 1991. Whether you’re a small social club or 501(c)3 organization, we offer experience and insight like no other. Contact us today!


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Author

  • Jacobson Jarvis was founded in 1991 as the only certified public accounting firm in the Northwest to focus its nonprofit audit, tax, and consulting capacity on the not-for-profit community.