What is a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) and How Do I Use One?

A Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) is a document that is typically used in the pre-project development phase to assess interest in your project. It can also be used to gather useful information from potential project tenants, and to test and refine your project vision. This guide explains how and when to use an REOI, and provides a step-by-step REOI process.

What is an REOI?
A Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) is a briefing document that may be used as a tool to stimulate and assess interest in a project and to solicit useful information from interested parties. Artscape has found this tool most useful in the pre-project development stage and often uses an REOI to test and refine the vision, mission and mandate of a project and to gain an understanding of the spatial and technical requirements for the project. An REOI provides a wonderful opportunity to communicate the preliminary ideas for a project to a relevant audience and solicit responses that help shape those ideas into a clearly-defined vision and an outline for the building program.

The REOI is also an opportunity for interested parties to respond with the requested information so that they may be informed about future announcements related to the project, including the competitive selection process. It should be noted, however, that responding to an REOI is not a prerequisite to participating in the competitive selection process and does not imply any binding commitment by any party.

The Purpose of an REOI
An REOI may serve many purposes. The following are some of the reasons that Artscape uses an REOI:
To Develop a Clear Vision:
It is important to develop a vision during the pre-project development stage which addresses a need or demand for a specific kind of project. An REOI not only assesses whether or not a market exists for the project, but can serve as a vehicle to solicit feedback on how to refine its vision so that it meets the needs of the target audience and potentially generates even greater interest.
For space-based projects, Artscape uses an REOI to understand and shape the spatial requirements for a project. For example, an REOI may be sent out to prospective tenants of a building to determine the space needs of the interested parties. This, in turn, provides an understanding of how to plan the layout and design of the space in order to maximize interest in renting or purchasing the space once the project is underway.
To Stimulate Interest and Assess the Market for Interested Parties:
In some instances, an REOI can act as a market research tool. When assessing the project’s ability to attract interested parties for individual projects, the REOI serves as a tool to stimulate interest and assess which qualified organizations and individuals might respond to the opportunity at a later stage in the procurement process. For example, Artscape often uses an REOI to assess the level of interest from potential tenants for a particular space. This knowledge can help to assess the feasibility of the project. Put another way, if an REOI receives an overwhelming number of responses – amounting to roughly three times the number of prospective tenants planned for a particular venue, for example – this is a reliable indicator of a strong market base for the project.
To Align Project Requirements and Respondent Capacity:
By aligning project requirements and the respondent’s capacity, any gaps in the REOI process are mitigated. On one hand, the REOI is a simplified way to identify who will be eligible for the competitive selection process in the future, indicating whether the respondent can meet the eligibility requirements and has the financial capacity to participate. On the other hand the REOI can serve as an opportunity to gauge respondents’ interests and adjust the project requirements accordingly for the next phase in the procurement process.
To Determine Which Procurement Process is Appropriate for the Proposition:
For some projects, it is not appropriate to procure organizations or individuals through the standard process of inviting proposals from a predetermined list. In these cases, an REOI may be used:
  • As an additional filter, when the number of potential organizations or individuals significantly exceeds the optimum number for select list proposals or tenders;
  • To increase the supply base and ensure that interested parties are pre-qualified for required services; and
  • To provide interested parties with the opportunity to form joint venture partnerships, where appropriate.

At Artscape, when the project is at the stage where tenants need to be selected and leases signed, the REOI will be followed by a full Call for Proposals.

When to Use an REOI
Most often, an REOI is used at the pre-project development stage as a tool to gauge interest in the opportunity, facilitate potential partnerships or help refine the vision for the project based on feedback from information sessions and the written Expression of Interest (EOI). An REOI can be a precursor to a feasibility study or can be used as a tool within a feasibility study to assess market interest and to contribute to site appraisal and building program development.
The Step-by-Step REOI Process  
1) Review Project Context
In order to make the REOI process effective for your organization and as user-friendly as possible for your audience, it is worth putting some time into getting the content of the REOI document as clear and accurate as possible. A comprehensive review of all background research is one of the most critical steps in the REOI process. Ask yourself if you are able to provide a simple and clear description of the project vision and enough practical information to attract responses from your target audience. Carefully assess whether the proposed project timelines are achievable – a respondent’s expression of interest may be based upon the timelines provided.
2) Draft the REOI
A well-prepared REOI document will help encourage responses by minimizing the effort and documentation required of respondents. Bear in mind that the REOI process is NOT a selection process and IS an opportunity for potential partners and tenants to contribute to project planning.
The REOI should address the following:
1) The Opportunity
  • An overview of the opportunity
  • Who the opportunity is for
2) The Project
  • Background
  • Vision
  • Timeline
  • Additional materials (i.e. floor plans, site plans, research documents)
3) Review Criteria
  • List and description of the criteria to be used by the Advisory Committee to review responses. Note that these are NOT selection criteria.
4) The Submission Requirements
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Information Sessions
  • Information Form
  • Expression of Interest
  • Submission Deadline
5) About you / Your project
  • About the organization or individual issuing the REOI
6) Limitations
  • The REOI must set out all legal implications from the onset in order to deter any legal action against the client during and after the closing of the REOI process.

Click here to download a full REOI Template.

3) Distribution & Gateway Organizations
How you intend to distribute the REOI will depend somewhat on the size and type of project you are planning. In some cases, you may want to reach a very specific target audience, in others you may want to reach out to communities of interest with whom you have had little previous contact. Your own contact lists and databases should of course form the foundation for your distribution list, edited and augmented by additional research as necessary to reach your target audience.
At Artscape we also use “gateway organizations” to help with REOI distribution. These are bodies with the ability to circulate the REOI document to broad range of potential partners. Some examples are Merx and Biddingo, Canada’s leading e-procurement portals for public and private opportunities. These portals connect suppliers of various goods and services to buyers from a wide range of public and private sectors. Your local arts council, municipal culture office, gallery, theatre or arts network may also be willing to help you circulate the REOI. In some cases you may need to research networks, membership or trade organizations who serve the community you are hoping to reach.

You may want to coordinate efforts to ensure your document is released on the same day by yourself and any other gateway organization.

4) Recruit and Coordinate a Community Advisory Committee
At Artscape, all submissions are reviewed by a Community Advisory Committee once the REOI closes. This committee is made up of sector specialists, partners and representatives from the local community. Community Advisory Committees are a structured way for individuals to share their opinions and perspectives, and to formulate recommendations in a focused, small group structure. During the REOI process, the primary purpose of the Community Advisory Committee is to provide unbiased expertise on the project.
5) Release the REOI 
The date of the release is primarily determined in coordination with gateway organizations and key industry dates/deadlines. The objective is to ensure the timing is in line with the schedules of potential respondents. Once the REOI document is released, all inquiries must be tracked and followed up. Frequently Asked Questions and any addendums should be posted online to ensure all interested parties are kept up to date with the project.
6) Information Sessions
Artscape tries to provide all potential respondents with an opportunity to learn more about the project. This may take the form of informal community meetings or information sessions that outline the project and the REOI requirements. Depending on the project, Artscape offers the opportunity to tour the site so interested parties can become familiar with the site.
7) REOI Closes
Artscape has found that the minimum period of time between an REOI release and a closing date is about six weeks. This should allow for any interested not-for-profit organization to consult with its board before responding to the REOI.
8) Community Advisory Committee Meetings
Expressions of interest are reviewed after the closing date for submissions. The timing of the review is contingent on the scheduling of the advisory committee.
9) REOI Next Steps
The REOI document outlines how and if the respondents are informed of the outcomes of the REOI process. Limitations within the document can state that the client does not need to publicly disclose or make any formal decisions on the project. Although not always necessary, at Artscape we feel that it is important to give all REOI respondents the opportunity to find out about the outcomes of the REOI and how the process has informed the project vision, the outline building program and the proposed next steps.
Everyone who responds to your REOI has taken time from their busy schedules to contribute to your process. They are all potentially important partners in taking the project forward as possible future tenants, development partners or supporters and advocates. Once you have got them “in the room” it is worth the effort to keep them there!