What is an RFP?

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A Request for Proposal, or RFP, is by far the most common way for the government – and some private companies – to acquire goods and services. When an organization needs a product or service, they may write up and publish an RFP, and ask for qualified vendors to apply in a specified way. Simply put, it’s a document that lays out an organization’s needs and asks for solutions from applicants, who are applying to win the right to complete the project.

For example, let’s say a city needs their website updated or redesigned. The city may publish an RFP, which outlines what the city needs from the new website, specifies their budget range, and invites web design firms to submit a proposal (or “bid”) for the project.

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Typically, a common RFP will include some variation of the following:

  1. Background: A standard RFP will usually include a brief history of the organization and its area of expertise. This section may also include a brief overview of the organization’s needs as they relate to the project at hand.

  2. Scope of Work: Here, the organization will explain in detail exactly what product, service or commodity the organization requires. This is the heart of the RFP, as it outlines exactly what the organization needs from bidders. In the website example above, this section would clearly define what features and functionality the website would need to have.

  3. Proposal Format: This section may be included at the beginning or end of the RFP, or different elements may be scattered throughout the document. It lays out exactly how bidders should respond to the RFP, including where to send the proposal, who bidders should contact for more information, how many copies to send, whether copies should be digital, physical or both, whether original signatures are needed on the document, and so on. It may also get even more specific, and state where proposal elements such as cover letters, executive summaries, tables of contents etc. must be placed in the proposal document.

  4. Questions/Pre-Bid Conference Information: Often, the issuing organization will have a period during which interested bidders may send in questions, and/or a conference that bidders can attend to ask questions directly. This section lays out how and when bidders can get their inquiries answered before sending in their final bids.

  5. Evaluation Criteria: If the issuing organization is a government entity, they are often required to specify how they plan on evaluating the proposals and choosing the winning bidder.

  6. Documents and Forms: Particularly in government RFPs (see our previous article on government versus private RFPs), there may be a long list of standard forms and certifications that are required from any entity seeking to do business with the issuing organization. Depending on the issuer, these can range from disclosures of certain ownership and investment interests, tax documents, proposed contracts, and so on.

After the submission period has ended, the issuing organization will review the proposals just as one might review job applications, and award a contract to the bidder who best meets their requirements. This process can take anywhere from a few days to several months.

Since finding and responding the RFPs can be quite an in-depth (and sometimes confusing) process, businesses may choose to enlist the help of a bid consulting form.

At The Bid Lab, RFPs are our business. Not only do we specialize in finding RFPs for businesses to bid on, we also handle the entire bidding process in order to help them win. If you think it’s time for your business to jump into the bidding process, contact us today for a free consultation.