Our Guide to Writing a “Request for a Proposal” (RFP)

To Start

Before you begin writing your RFP, its essential to have done some research into your needs. About.com has a good example, “Don’t issue an RFP for a machine that can produce 1500 widgets per hour when you have never sold more than 25 a month.”

Its appropriate to distinguish between the things you will expect will be done (needs) and things you’d like done (wants). For instance, its acceptable to write that the chosen company will design, develop, and launch an fundraising site and may travel to present the final product to the board. It’s your job to distinguish between necessities and elective responsibilities in the RFP, so give it thought.

Know your budgetary limitations, desired timeline, and the quality you’re expecting. The old saying is you can only choose 2 of those three – know which two are most important to the success of the project.

Writing the RFP

Now that you’ve got a good hold on your needs, wants, and restrictions you can begin to organize and write your RFP. Below, we’ve listed out the main components that you’ll most likely want to include.

1. About Us Section

This is usually a paragraph describing your organization; it should include its mission, size, history, primary business objectives, and current URL (for more information or as a reference in itself).

2. Brief Project Description (Statement of Need)

This can be a paragraph describing your current relevant products/services, etc. If you’re requesting a Web site, be sure to specify your current site situation, and overview of the project. Explain the motivation for this project (ie. what’s prompting the project starting at this time), key audience information, and final delivery date requirements (for the product or service).

3. Requirements

Every project has parameters that need to be worked within, be clear about everything known such as branding guidelines; technical specifications; printing budgets; approval process; and many more only known to your group.

4. Define Roles

Will you be passing this project over fully to the chosen design firm? Note in the RFP if they are expected to establish and maintain the timetable, hold your company accountable for certain resources, etc. This is something that can be easily overlooked, but—if clarified before the project begins—can make accountability and delivery smooth sailing.

5. Proposal Requirements

What do you want to know about the companies that are bidding for this project?  Too many RFP’s are created from boilerplates that ask many questions that end up not being pertinent to how you will evaluate the design studio. Take time to list what criteria you will evaluate on so you are matching up the strengths of your team with the strengths of that firm’s. Questions can be: company history, links, work samples / case studies, methods, process, references, and I think the most important one is who will be leading the project and the team they’ll assemble. Many times, the design company has an account executive write the proposal but the awarded project gets handed to someone else to manage later — find out as much as you can about the team responsible for your project.

Note: Most design studios have spent an incredible amount of time developing processes and procedures to provide a high quality of ideas while maintaining efficiencies. Rigid requirements in a RFP may result in studios not replying to RFPs or an increase in the cost.

6. Proposal Deadline and Contact Information

Be clear about the cutoff point and the means for the applicants to submit their proposals. You can specify “no calls,” give a specific number or email address for questions that may pop up, and can designate different contacts for questions and final proposals that are submitted.

Tip: An applicant’s ability to submit their proposal to the guidelines that you’ve expressed can be a good indicator of their merit as a partner in the project.

Sending It Out

It’s a digital world. You can use postage and mail your RFP to companies that you think might be a good fit for the project, but you should also consider posting it online to broaden the spectrum of bidders or sending out an email to a company mailing list.

I invite you to also view our portfolio page to see what we’ve accomplished for our clients. Openbox9 is currently accepting RFPs.

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Ashleigh is a graphic designer with roots in fine arts, a love for all things creative, and a BFA in graphic design from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Ashleigh has a passion for design that almost trumps her passion for caring for others. Almost. She thrives finding distinct and pertinent solutions for organizations and causes.
September 15th, 2010 // // ,
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