A request for bid or request for proposal, or RFP, is a document made by a business or organization for vendors. For example, a construction company may need carpenters or a hospital may need a web designer to create a site. RFPs are generally formal documents with guidelines for the vendor. They include details on the business that is making the request, the specifications of the business project, the solicitation process for vendors, the selection process for choosing a vendor or vendors, the contract process and the communication process during the solicitation.

1. Gather Your Data

Collect all your information beforehand. Have your financial statements, budgets, contracts, agreements and any other pertinent documents that pertain to the project. This will make writing your RFP easier.

2. Write the Executive Summary

Write an overview or introduction, sometimes called an “executive summary.” This section introduces the business or organization making the request and its place within its industry. The summary also presents in a highlight fashion the project or business need for which requests are being sought.

3. Present the Specifications

Present the specifications clearly, in terms to which the vendors will respond. Define the nature and scope of your project, your needs, your expected outcome and any other essential information. Be specific; there is a significant difference between needing a website designed and needing a website designed, updated and regularly managed.

4. Give Instructions to Bidders

Clearly state the instructions for how the communication process will be handled during the solicitation process. If you want vendors to contact a single person at your organization, make that clear. If there will be a presentation for vendors to attend, include all details on that. If you do not want vendors to contact you at all during the process, state that definitively. Make a determination on how the bids will be received by you, whether they must be sealed and what the deadline is.

5. Include the Boilerplate

Explain that the RFP is not a contract and that responding to it does not guarantee selection. Make sure to include information that will make a vendor’s response worth the vendor’s time. Lay out details on the budget, the contract, the form of payments and the evaluation of work while the project is active.

Include any legal, copyright, insurance and ethical considerations for the vendors to consider. This includes, but is not limited to, confidentiality agreements, minority vendor requirements, local regulations, safety considerations and business practices.

6. Give Additional Instructions

Specify any distinct instructions on how the responses should be formatted. Instruct the vendors on how you want to see their proposal numbers, what information they should include with their proposals, such as copies of insurance information or business licenses.

7. Describe the Selection Process

Include your invitation to bid with a few paragraphs regarding the selection process. Let the vendors know whether or not they will be notified if they do not get the job as well as what to expect if they are selected for the job.