How to Develop a Request for Proposal

An RFP may request attachments, such as design plans.
An RFP may request attachments, such as design plans. (Image: house plan business documents image by scalesy from <a href=''></a>)

Business and organizations often use invitations to bid to procure services, but some complex services require the additional detail afforded by a request for proposals (RFP). An RFP may be used to procure services such as technology upgrades, transportation and distribution, maintenance, data management systems, or professional consultants such as graphic artists and architects. An RFP provides the information an organization needs to evaluate the submitters’ skills, experience, references and past experience providing similar services. An RFP allows for detailed descriptions of requirements, objectives and the submission and award process.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen and pencils
  • Paper
  • File folders

Write an introduction that provides an overview of the company or organization and a summary of the RFP, including a brief description of the project, item or service for which you are requesting proposals. Include a brief summary of the sections included in the RFP and insert instructions to read each section thoroughly before responding to the RFP.

Include a section for contact information and instructions for acceptable requests for assistance. Include information about workshops or meetings scheduled to assist with proposal development. Include information about required forms and how they may be accessed.

Write a timeline for the RFP process, including dates for the RFP release, proposal submission deadline, review and evaluation period, notifications and announcement of the award. Include a date on which the RFP may be withdrawn due to insufficient response and provide information about when the RFP might be released again.

State the objectives of the RFP. Include detailed descriptions of the service, project or item for which your organization will contract. Explain the relevance of the request to your organization. Clearly state the required final deliverable–a detailed description of what the responder must have provided at the conclusion of the contract. Include, where appropriate, specifics for complex services such as technology upgrades, deadlines, multiple delivery dates or service periods and quantitative requirements.

Describe the terms and conditions of the contract for delivery of the services, such as whether sub-contracting is allowed, reporting requirements during the work period, access to records and confidentiality. Include information about the consequences for failure to deliver the contracted services and information about the required signing of contracts.

Provide a range for total cost and detail the allowable expenses responders may include. Describe requirements for preparation of a budget and the documentation required, such as written quotes and proof of bonding, insurance and financial fitness or capability.

Detail the required format, form and attachments for the RFP submission. List documentation required such as business licenses. Include instructions for submitting the proposals, such as a mailing address, if hand-delivery is allowed, copies required and packaging of the materials.

Detail the method of evaluation used to select proposals. Provide information about the evaluators and their experience. If a point system is used, provide detailed information on how points are earned for each segment of the proposal or for other considerations, such as experience or proposed costs.

Explain how notification is made, such as on a website, via email or the postal service. Include information about how the winning proposal is announced and how much information is made public from the winning proposal. Include instructions for appealing the decision, if appropriate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Include a glossary of terms for complex RFPs concerning technology or industry-specific requests. Review RFPs from other companies for ideas. Determine where the RFP will be published–on a website, in newspapers, in industry-specific publications or mailed to interested parties.
  • Have legal counsel review the RFP before publication, especially if the RFP is complex and the submission period is expected to be highly competitive.

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