In the Trenches: The RFP Process
Selecting a fundraising agency to build your donor or membership program can be a tough decision, with many factors to consider. It makes sense, then, to prepare a Request for Proposal that gives responding agencies the proper information and asks the right questions.
The RFP can sometimes be the official “first date” for most agency/nonprofit organization relationships. It sets the tone for the partnership and provides a road map for future success.
It doesn’t matter what you call it — Request for Proposal, Request for Quote or Request for Pricing — what’s critical is the strategic planning that goes into the document’s development. All too often, an agency wins an account only to find itself being replaced a year later.
An RFP has the singular mission of finding an agency that will best meet a nonprofit organization’s needs and marketing objectives, but it can vary greatly in terms of size and content. Some are brief and concise, while others require extensive documentation. RFPs can be created for specific projects or programs, or for multiple campaigns or multiple media channels. Sometimes an RFP will require strategy, tactics and projections for the long term (several years out).
While each RFP is unique, there are straightforward guidelines that will help you prepare a document for effectively matching your needs with agency offerings. Here are some tips:
1. Ask the right questions. While you’re looking for an agency to support you, it’s the people that work at the agency with whom you’ll be dealing on a daily basis. There has to be a synergy in overall philosophy, personality and work style for both parties to be productive and successful.
Ask questions that will offer insight into these important relationship-building traits. Recently, one major-market public television station asked our agency a series of open-ended questions about the state of the public TV industry. Clearly, the intent was to see if responding agencies understood public television’s challenges in addition to gauging competence in direct marketing.