Why RFPs won’t give your non-profit organization the best results


Many non-profits are required to issue RFPs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change the content or process in which you select your vendors. Throughout our years as a growing creative agency we have discovered a few things from first-hand experience in submitting over a hundred proposals. Below is our list of the top six reasons we feel request for proposals can yield poor results for your non-profit organization when it comes to selecting a vendor.

Clever, unconventional thinking is often left out of the picture.

For the most part RFP’s are a rigid and inflexible document, essentially reducing a creative agency to providing a single solution to concrete, stated needs. To avoid squashing creative problem solving, list your organizations needs but allow room for out-the-box thinking paired with insightful solutions that you may have not expected!

You miss out on a reflective discovery phase.

As stated above, proposals are responses to questions and stated needs, but the questions asked aren’t always the best ones. Yes, that’s right! We need to be the ones asking your non-profit organization the critical questions regarding your online marketing, website experience, branding and overall mission. In the end, you may miss out on the opportunity to work with an agency that is truly interested in discovering more about your organization’s problems and pain points. Our goal is always to ask you the questions you might not have thought to ask yourself. That’s incredibly valuable.

A bloated RFP gives most creative and web development agencies a serious case of cold feet.

We’ve come across RFP’s that are upwards of 100 pages in length – not that we don’t appreciate detail, but we can only imagine the process and time that was sunk into preparing these documents. Not only are these documents daunting to skim over, they start to form a rain cloud over the heads of those who contemplate pursuing a working relationship with said organization. These bloated RFP’s also increase your risk of having vital content overlooked due to the sheer quantity of information listed. We highly recommend to keep it short and sweet with clear, itemized guidelines.

Your short and long term goals can end up being ignored.

A project is quite a bit more than putting together a beautiful website or report. Your organization needs to have it’s short and long term goals assessed properly and a clear path must be laid out in order to meet those goals. A website is not just a website – it’s a platform and tool used to connect you with your valued audience, pushing them to perform your desired actions that in turn help you reach your goals. It should never sit still and look pretty!

Your selection process could be hindering the best fit for your Non-Profit from reaching out.

The process in which people engage with your organization should be enjoyable and somewhat stress-free, often times we encounter RFP’s that require us to jump through flaming hoops and land on our feet perfectly before we even have the chance to arrange a single phone call. Give your vendors the option to reach out to your team to get a better feel for fit. It’s critical that the working relationship is a two-way street from the very start.

Spec work perpetuates the notion that creative work is a cheap commodity.

As past design students and freelancers we’ve done our fair share of spec work for potential clients. We have since come to realize that not only does it incredibly devalue our roles as creative professionals it immediately tells us that this possible client has a “tire-kicker” mentality. This same issue occurs in a lot of RFP’s that we find today. Instead of requiring an agency to put in unpaid work hours simply request examples of past, relevant work to view.

With all that being said, you may still be wondering “How else do we find vendors then?”. Well, we highly recommend you open a dialogue between vendors that work within your industry – that means they know the right questions to ask and have insiders knowledge of how your non-profit operates. In a perfect world, an organization should be researching, pre-qualifying and speaking with vendors prior to inviting them to respond to clear, concise request for proposals.

We love talking to potential clients to help them identify what their needs are, and how we can help them put their creative work and website to work. If your NGO is interested, we’d love to have a chat with you. We have a handy form right here, if you’d like to schedule a call.

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