What is a Request for Proposals (RFP) and How Do I Use One?

A Request for Proposals (RFP) is a tool used to identify candidates for your project. An RFP typically includes instructions for respondents to submit their proposals, which you will then evaluate based on specific criteria. Continue reading for more information on the RFP and the step-by-step RFP process.

What is an RFP?
The Request for Proposals (RFP) is the most commonly used procurement tactic when an organization wants to select the best candidate for a business opportunity. The term RFP refers to both the RFP solicitation process and the RFP document, which is the tool used for soliciting proposals. Proposals submitted in response to an RFP are evaluated using multiple criteria, such as price, qualifications and experience. Artscape uses a Call for Proposals, which is similar to an RFP, when targeting artists or arts organizations as potential tenants for a project.

If you are interested in reading more about the tenant selection process, Click here.

The Purpose of an RFP
An RFP may be used for a variety of reasons at various stages of a project. The most basic function of an RFP is to solicit responses from interested parties that will provide enough information to make a decision about who the best candidate is and what the best approach is for the project.

Procure a Specialist Consultant or Specialist Service Provider
A contractor may be required at any stage of a project for a variety of roles. For example, an organization may use an RFP to seek a consultant to help develop the vision for the project at the outset or to undertake a feasibility study. At a later stage, an RFP may be used to hire an architect and engineer to design a space and, while usually an architect will hire subcontractors, an RFP may be used to hire a construction team if it is required. An RFP may also be used at the completion of a project to hire an operations manager to oversee the ongoing management of the completed space. The information contained in an RFP will vary significantly depending on the stage that the project is at and the role it is seeking to fulfill.

Solicit Partnerships
Finding the right partner to collaborate on a project can be complicated. There are many factors to consider, such as alignment of organizational values, finding a shared vision, and organizational capacity. An RFP provides an excellent opportunity to solicit responses that reveal everything you need to know about an individual or organization to determine if they are a right fit for the project.

The Step-by-Step RFP Process 
Each RFP is unique. However, there are some common steps that Artscape tends to follow when moving from an identified need to the delivery of the required goods or services.

A. Prepare
There is a significant amount of preparation required prior to writing and administering an RFP. It is crucial to gather all of the relevant and up-to-date information for a project and to define exactly what you are asking for. Providing detailed information in the RFP document will not only solicit better and more accurate responses from the proponents, it will also make the process easier for the administrator of the RFP as there will be less confusion and fewer unanswered questions. It may be useful to complete an REOI (Request For Expressions of Interest) or RFQ (Request for Qualifications) process prior to developing an RFP in order to gather the required information to write the RFP.

B. Draft the RFP Document
Once the requirements are fully defined, the RFP document may be drafted and the evaluation criteria determined. Please refer to the RFP Template for details on what to include in an RFP document. Artscape uses the following questions to help shape an RFP:

1. Why?
Reasons why your organization is putting out an RFP.

2. Who?
Description of your organization.

3. What?
Describe the nature of your project.

4. How?
Information needed from respondents.
Proposal evaluation criteria.
Contract award criteria.

5. When?
Selection process timeframe and deadlines.
Persons to contact.

C. Issue the RFP Document
If you previously issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), you may already have a shortlist of candidates. However, if an RFQ was not used during the procurement process, a tendering service may be used to ensure that the RFP reaches the right audience. Gateway organizations are targeted bodies who have the ability to circulate the RFP document to a broad range of potential partners. Some examples are Merx and Biddingo, which are e-procurement portals for public and private opportunities. These portals connect suppliers providing various goods and services to buyers from a complete range of public and private sectors.

D. Host an Informational Meeting
Artscape usually hosts a meeting for the proponents to ensure that all interested parties have all of the information that they need to respond. This serves as a great opportunity to meet the proponents and to provide information that was not provided in the RFP document. This information session is usually open to all potential proponents and other interested parties.

E. Evaluate the Proposals
Once you receive the proposals on the specified due date, pass them to the evaluation committee for assessment. The proposals are reviewed against the evaluation criteria outlined in the RFP document. Make sure that the criteria are relevant to your needs. For example, if certain skills are critical to the success of the project, be sure to rate those required skills as a strong priority.

In most cases, interviews should be held with the strongest candidates to further explore their response and to assess their “fit” with the project development team and the wider project vision. In many cases you will also want to be confident that the selected candidate is a strong verbal and visual communicator, confident and willing to work in complex cross sector/multi-disciplinary teams, and able to communicate effectively with community members and other stakeholders. Establishing a selection committee including representatives from your community steering committee is an effective way of assessing this.

F. Notify the Proponents
Once the successful proponent has been selected, notify both the successful and unsuccessful proponents. If requested, you may choose to host individual debriefing sessions with unsuccessful proponents.

G. Sign the Contract
If the chosen proponent agrees, a contract is negotiated and signed with the successful proponent. Be sure to consult a lawyer before signing the contract.

Click here to download the Request for Proposals (RFP) Template.