The Summer Mating Ritual of the RFP
Too many times I’ve seen a commercial firm with little or no nonprofit fundraising experience make it through the RFP process to the board of directors, who don’t know much about fundraising either. Sometimes these firms “wow” the board and get the contract. Then you, the fundraising professional, must spend your first few meetings educating your new consultant about the difference between renewals and appeals.
Understand the true costs
How does the consultant make money? A low monthly retainer and low creative fees do not always guarantee that you’ll be paying a small amount for a consultant’s services.
Some clients prefer that their fees be “hidden.” So they allow their consultants to gain much of their compensation by marking up production invoices. While this practice initially might appear as an inexpensive way to pay for a consultant, don’t be fooled. In such cases, all you’ve done is give a consultant permission to hide its profits from you. You still are paying fees … but you have no way to monitor how much. Chances are the true cost is higher than if you paid the consultant directly.
Also, be aware of situations in which consultants subcontract your production work to outside production managers. In such cases, a middle-man has been added, and this entity is earning compensation through unknown mark-ups of the invoices you pay.
Set reasonable deadlines
Allow a reasonable amount of time for the RFP process. All too often, the proposal process does not provide enough time for all of the parties to do their best work.
By allowing a consultant sufficient time to create a proposal, you will receive a better-prepared product. And by allowing yourself sufficient time to analyze the proposals you receive, and to thoroughly interview the candidates, you will be able to ensure that you make the best decision.