It’s Time for a Better Government RFP

Many government teams avoid the request for proposal (RFP) process at all costs. As a product marketer specializing in a government grant management software solution, I have seen that first hand. Often, there is a sense of dread when it’s time to solicit proposals for new technology. But there are ways to make the RFP process more efficient and a better experience for your team.

The whole point of an RFP is to get the information you need to make a clear decision. Every question you include should align with that intention. The best RFP responses are written so that you and your team have every piece of information you need and nothing more.   

Begin with clarity

The key to receiving concise and relevant responses lies in crafting a clear and well-structured RFP. Start by clearly defining your agency’s goals, objectives, and the specific problem you aim to solve with software. Provide an overview of your requirements, including functional needs, integration considerations, scalability, and any budgetary constraints. This clarity will enable vendors to tailor their responses more precisely to your needs.

Provide context

To facilitate vendors’ understanding of your organization’s unique needs, it’s essential to provide relevant context. This could include details about your existing systems, workflows, pain points, and desired outcomes. If you have an estimate, include how many users will be utilizing the software, the number of programs you run in a year, or any other relevant information. By painting a comprehensive picture of your current grant management processes, vendors can better tailor their responses to address your specific challenges and offer valuable insights. You can also easily tell which vendors took the time to create a response tailored to your needs and which are simply copying and pasting from past responses—a big red flag.

Maintain focus

When formulating questions in your RFP, strive for brevity and precision. Break down complex requirements into concise, actionable points. Clearly state what you’re looking for regarding features, system capabilities, reporting capabilities, and any other crucial factors. If you need guidance on what type of features you may want to include you can find that in this guide. You can also include what you are not looking for to avoid receiving pages of descriptions of features or services that are out of scope or not applicable to your project. This can also be about your preferences. Specificity in your questions will yield targeted responses. 

Consider your evaluators

Be kind to your evaluators when crafting your proposal. Use checkboxes to easily receive a lot of information without requiring them to read through long narratives—especially in areas such as security and compliance. In many cases, a simple check mark that a vendor meets the requirements and an attachment for proof will suffice. To help you get started, use this template to get ideas of what to include and how to offer a mix of open-ended questions along with checklist requirements.

Emphasize key evaluation criteria

Aligning your rubric/scoring system with your program goals will keep your evaluators from getting lost in the features and help them focus on what matters most. By publishing your rubric in your RFP, vendors can tailor their responses accordingly and not add unnecessary information that doesn’t matter to your program (and wastes time and energy from your team).  

Be ready for the next RFP

The RFP process is a great time to get your whole team on the same page. When you get clear about things like program goals, current blockers, reporting requirements, and ideal workflow, you not only set yourself up for a good RFP experience, you also strengthen your collaboration internally. 

That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see from my vantage—agencies going to RFP without that clarity. And that lack of clarity gets reflected in the RFP responses, making the process take longer and more effort from the team. Because in truth, the quality of your collaboration is what makes better outcomes possible. 
If you’re currently in the process of writing an RFP for grant management software, check out this guide: Write an effective RFP for grant management software and download this template to get started.

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Stacey Sveum

Stacey Sveum is a senior product marketer at Submittable who ensures products and features brought to market exceed the needs of grantmakers in the public sector. She meticulously reads and evaluates Grant Management Software RFPs (so many RFPs) to understand customer requirements and stay on top of industry trends.