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020515 5 questions rfp

Let’s be honest, the RFP process is not an exciting venture for nonprofits and fundraising professionals. I can say that because I’ve been on both sides of the equation. In fact, the RFP process calls to mind that great quote from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

Okay, pain is too strong a term, but RFPs do require effort.

How to Reframe the Entire RFP Process

One way to ease some of that effort is to reframe the whole RFP process. Think of it as what it really is — or, more precisely, what it should be — an interview. That shift in perspective will ensure that all parties have the latitude for an appropriate amount of give-and-take throughout the process.

While your organization may be looking to structure the RFP to support an apples-to-apples comparison, consider whether or not you’ve offered the partner-to-be an opportunity to showcase their unique characteristics and qualifications.

2 Questions Every Nonprofit Should Ask Potential Partners

Much like you’d do during a job interview, invite the potential partner to respond to two key open-ended questions.

  1. In what ways can we can adapt the project or campaign when unexpected challenges arise? Ask them to share about an experience where they overcame unforeseen obstacles or applied creative solutions to a difficult challenge.
  2. Why are you interested in working on a project or campaign like this? Invite them to share something specific about your organization and this engagement that interests them. This will allow you to validate that they are truly interested in working with your organization and aren’t responding simply because they were asked.
3 Internal Questions Nonprofits Should Ask Themselves

And as a complement, consider what you provide to potential partners during the RFP process and then ask yourself questions like these:

  1. What information or data do we have that might provide context and help the partner develop the best plan? If you’re asking for a detailed plan or baseline projections, consider what data you’ve provided them.
  2. Have we summarized the results of previous campaigns?  For direct response engagements, have you shared the composition of your database?
  3. Have you provided your style guides if you’re requesting spec work?
Are You Ready to Optimize Your RFP Process?

As you initiate your next RFP, push your organization’s staff and leadership to keep in mind that you get out of something only what you put into it.

Get a fresh perspective on how you can ease the effort — and sometimes the pain — of the RFP process by downloading our resource, Request for Proposal: Are You Asking the Questions That Will Help You Find the Right Partner? It will help your organization turn the sometimes-painful RFP process into an extended interview that could lead to a fruitful partnership.

Do RFPs work well for your organization? Are you asking the right questions and getting responses on target for your needs?