An RFP is a method of soliciting proposals from consultants interested in being hired for your project. The RFP provides basic information about your organization, and the project or problem you would like the consultant to address. The RFP should establish a general format for consultant proposals, which will allow you to evaluate and compare consultants equally and efficiently. The following is a proposed format for an RFP, which can be modified to fit the needs of your agency.

Request for Proposal (RFP) Guideline

Agency Mission & Description
Brief description of your agency’s mission, programs and services, size of the organization, geographic region and sources of funding.

Project Overview/Anticipated Outcomes
A concise overview of the project, services you are looking for the consultant to perform, as well as key objectives or intended outcomes and deliverables.

Problem or Need
The issues, factors and/or problems that are driving you to undertake this project at this time. What is the underlying need and organizational context (e.g., recent history) that has brought you to the point where you desire an outside consultant’s assistance?

If you know what your budget is, it can be helpful to include a specific budget amount or range, so that the consultant can develop a scope of work that fits within your budget.

Proposal Selection Criteria
Criteria by which proposals will be evaluated and compared can include: clarity of proposal and work plan, timeline, budget and costs, ability to establish an effective working relationship with the client.

Timeline for Selecting Consultant
Indicate deadlines for submission of proposals, and selection of consultant.

Proposal Submission
Indicate name, address, phone number and e-mail of agency contact. (Encourage interested consultants to contact you to clarify the project and your needs prior to submitting a written proposal.)

Consultant Proposal Content

    • Consultant or Firm Include complete name, address, phone and e-mail address.
    • Anticipated Scope of Work and Timeframe Describe your plan for accomplishing the work - the activities, format, and timeframe required to complete the project. Provide a timeline that includes each phase of the project. Include a description of expected time commitments of staff and volunteers.
    • Budget and Cost Provide number of hours and hourly rates for each of the consultants assigned, and specify their respective duties. Include the cost for each phase, as well as the maximum fee for this project. Identify personnel and non-personnel items separately within the total budget..
    • Resumes of Personnel Provide resumes of each consultant who will work on the project, and their respective responsibilities for this project. Include a summary of relevant experiences of each of the consultants in working on similar projects with similar agencies.
    • Previous Clients/References Provide a list of previous clients, as well as references for each of the consultants assigned to the project. Briefly describe the scope of the work for these references, the year completed and a contact name and phone number for each one.

Helpful Hints:

The key is to offer as much useful information as possible so that consultants can develop relevant proposals and accurate bids. At the same time, make sure your format won't require an excessive amount of time and work for consultants. Remember that consultants are not paid for developing their proposals. If your RFP entails a huge time commitment, it may deter qualified, but busy consultants that simply don't have the time to respond. The best bet is for you to create a format that allows your prospects to answer in a two- or three-page proposal.

Make sure your design allows for flexibility in the response, making it easier for consultants to present their ideas. And don't design the RFP with the expectation of soliciting conclusions from the consultant. The purpose of the proposal is to specify how the consultant will approach the problem and project.

Consultants will not respond to every written RFP they receive, as they can be quite time-consuming. The selection phase is a two-way street: a consultant has to be interested in your organization and project in order for them to offer a proposal, and may require a phone call with you prior to submitting a proposal.