How to Format for RFP

by Roy Sylvan; Updated September 26, 2017
Producing an effective RFP takes time and careful thought.

A request for proposals is a document issued by a company, non-profit organization or government agency soliciting responses from potential vendors to the requirements listed. While RFPs vary in size, scope and form, they usually cover similar topics. An RFP will ordinarily tell the vendors about the sponsoring entity, what it wants to obtain and lay out the terms and conditions for selection. An RFP commonly asks the vendors to explain why they are qualified to respond, how they intend to accomplish the objectives described in the proposal and the price they expect to be paid.

Step 1

Describe the purpose and scope of the RFP, including the goods, products or services you want to acquire and the qualifications you expect the vendor to possess. This will enable the vendors to determine if they are eligible and wish to respond. By indicating that your company needs 10,000 blue widgets delivered in three months, your organization is seeking a location and equipment to prepare and serve 200 meals daily for elderly clients, or your agency requires training to improve customer service, you can save your own and your vendors' time and effort.

Step 2

Write a description of your company, organization or agency that provides the potential vendors with useful data. Since it will cost time and money for most vendors to respond to your RFP, this helps establish a future working relationship. Explain what you intend to accomplish with their product or service. Identify the people to whom they should direct their questions and correspondence.

Step 3

Specify the scope of work in full detail so vendors can make accurate projections of labor, materials and other costs. List your projected completion dates so they can develop a realistic timeline. Describe conditions you expect them to meet, such as labor, environmental and safety standards. State the performance standards you require and how you expect to monitor and evaluate their effort.

Step 4

List the plans, reports, products, services and materials that you expect them to deliver and when you would like each completed. Vendors may have circumstances that prevent them from delivering what you request when you expect it. Differences between your expectations and a vendor's are likely to be the subject of discussion during contract negotiations. Some RFPs include a section with standard items of the proposed contract, such as cancellation clauses and confidentiality agreements

Step 5

Include in your RFP the criteria you will use to evaluate the responses you receive and the manner and timing of the award to the winning bidder. This is important to avoid claims of favoritism or other unfair practices. Many RFPs use a point system, awarding points for items such as cost, scope of work, qualifications and personnel.

About the Author

Roy Sylvan has a Ph.D. in communication studies. He directed a large city department of aging, was COO of a consulting company and provided management training to companies and nonprofits. Writing for more than 40 years, Sylvan has authored articles in trade journals, magazines and blogs, and wrote a how-to book on starting a business.

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