How to write a winning RFP

In addition to sponsoring the BADCamp Nonprofit Summit, Kanopi’s CEO Anne Stefanyk hosted a collaborative breakout session titled, “How to Draft an RFP to Find the Right Vendor.” The discussion revealed a number of key factors to help you write a winning RFP which will drive successful outcomes. 

  • Know your goals. Spend the time to work with your internal teams in advance of the RFP process to define (and align) your needs.
  • Think in terms of building a long-term relationship. A good partnership with your vendors is key and should be established from the beginning. Do you like them as people? Can you imagine being on hours of calls and going out to dinner together?
  • Don’t be adversarial or try to obscure your true needs. Being as transparent as possible will benefit everyone and allow vendors to provide you with stronger, more tailored responses.  
  • State your budget if you can, perhaps reserving some percentage for contingency. This allows everyone to understand what they are dealing with and can help save time and energy on all sides. 
  • Don’t be overly prescriptive. Good agencies are gifted at coming up with expert solutions to challenges that are stated in terms of problem statements or business objectives. Keeping an open mind will allow you to see (and compare) your prospective vendor’s recommendations and benefit from their expertise. 
  • Give yourself and your vendor enough time. Start the RFP process before your need is immediate to avoid extra pressure on both sides to meet an unnecessarily tight timeline. Allowing more time can also mean more considered and complete responses.
  • Talk to your potential vendors ahead of time. This allows you to establish the relationship and pre-select the ones you suspect will be a good fit. The right vendors can provide a lot of value early in the process, which may even help inform the scope or direction of the RFP.

Updated to add: in 2018, Allison Manley gave a presentation on how to write a winning RFP. Check out her presentation below to get more in-depth information.