RFPs for Nonprofits: The Full Rundown (& FREE Template!)

Crafting an effective request for proposal (RFP) can be a game-changer for your nonprofit. An RFP offers a strategic roadmap for potential vendors, sets expectations right from the get-go, and helps your team coalesce your project plans. Whether you’re seeking to enhance your organization’s tech infrastructure, bolster your fundraising efforts, or improve your Google Ad Grants strategy, mastering the art of the nonprofit RFP is key to achieving your mission.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into:

Are you ready to learn all about writing a great RFP? Let’s dive in.

Frequently Asked Questions About RFPs

What is an RFP?

This image and the text below define what an RFP is.

A request for proposal (RFP) is a formal document that outlines the requirements, specifications, and criteria of a project or service. It serves as an invitation for qualified vendors or partners to submit bids.

An RFP is different from a request for information (RFI), which seeks preliminary information about potential vendors, and a request for quote (RFQ) which solicits price information.

In this guide, we’re specifically focusing on RFPs aimed at finding suitable partners or vendors via detailed proposals, rather than RFPs for soliciting grant proposals or similar funding opportunities.

What are the benefits of creating an RFP to find a vendor?

It may be tempting to just start booking calls with vendors to ask for estimates, but there are several reasons to prepare an RFP first:

  • Alignment: It ensures that everyone within your organization is aligned regarding the requirements of the project and the expectations of the vendor.
  • Efficiency: By clearly defining your needs and evaluation criteria upfront, you streamline the vendor selection process, saving time and resources, and avoiding confusion and disappointment down the line.
  • Clarity: An RFP provides clarity to potential vendors regarding your organization’s goals, specific requirements, timeline, and budget, which ensures you receive more accurate bids.

Who should be involved in writing an RFP for my nonprofit?

When crafting an RFP for your nonprofit, it’s crucial to involve the right folks. Consider including:

  • Organizational leaders: They can provide strategic direction and ensure alignment with the organization’s mission and objectives.
  • Finance or budget officers: Their expertise is invaluable in determining budgetary considerations and financial feasibility.
  • Legal counsel: If necessary, legal experts can offer guidance on contractual matters, ensuring compliance and risk mitigation.
  • Operational staff: Individuals who will be directly involved in implementing and managing the vendor relationship should also have input to ensure practicality and feasibility.
  • Subject matter experts: If your project is meant to collect donations, be sure to include your development/fundraising team. If it’s meant to encourage people to volunteer, involve your volunteer management team.

What should my RFP look like?

Your RFP should be a few pages of clear, concise, and comprehensive information about your goal, your current situation, and your expectations. For a detailed template and guidance on structuring your RFP effectively, refer to the downloadable template provided below.

The Elements to Include in a Nonprofit RFP (& Cornershop Creative’s FREE Template)

Crafting an effective RFP is the cornerstone of a successful partnership with an external vendor. It serves as the roadmap for your project, outlining your organization’s needs, expectations, and selection criteria. By including essential elements in your RFP, you set the stage for clear communication, alignment of goals, and ultimately, the success of your project.

This an RFP template for nonprofits!


Here are the crucial elements to include in your RFP:

  • Organizational background information: Provide a quick overview of your nonprofit, including your mission, vision, values, and any relevant background information.
  • Current Situation: For example, if you’re looking for web design services, explain your current website technology including any integrations with systems like CRMs and email management platforms, and why your organization is considering a redesign/rebuild at this time.
  • General project information: Clearly and succinctly define the scope of the project.
  • Project goals: Outline the specific goals and objectives you aim to achieve through the project.
  • Timeframe: Specify the timeline for the project, including key milestones and deadlines. Don’t feel the need to make up a timeline for the sake of having one: if you’re flexible, say so.
  • Budget: Clearly state the budget allocated for the project, including any funding restrictions or limitations. It may be tempting to keep the budget number a secret, but including it helps potential vendors to self-select out of the running if they find the budget to be too low, which reduces vetting work on your part.
  • Experience/skills needed: If you have specific requirements, state them here. Consider specifying a preference for vendors who have worked with nonprofits, and if it’s important that your vendor understands your specific nonprofit cause, mention that as well.
  • Criteria for selection of vendor: Define the evaluation criteria you will use to assess and select the most suitable vendor.
  • Proposal submission guidelines: Provide clear instructions on how vendors should format and submit their proposals, including deadlines and contact information. In addition to specifying the proposal deadline and the email address they should submit to, ask vendors to answer specific questions about their team, process, and experience. Consider asking each vendor to use a specific subject line to allow for easy email filtering

Here’s an example of what an RFP with these elements might look like:

The Tiger Conservation Corps is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about tigers’ conservation status, conducting tiger habitat restoration projects, and rehabilitating injured tigers with the goal of restoring them to the wild. 

Our organization has experienced immense growth since we built our original website in 2008, but the website has remained largely static. We have new programs and projects that are not accurately represented on the site, and new staff members find it difficult to find information on the front end and edit information on the back end.

Our site is built in WordPress, using the Elementor page builder. We host the site at SiteGround. The site is integrated with FundraiseUp and MailChimp, and we will continue to use both systems going forward.

The project aims to redesign and optimize the website for the Tiger Conservation Corps. The goal of the project is to enhance the organization’s online presence, improve user experience, and increase engagement with stakeholders.

The primary goals of the website redesign project include:

  • Enhancing the visual appeal and brand consistency of the website
  • Improving navigation and usability to provide a seamless user experience
  • Implementing responsive design to ensure compatibility across all devices
  • Integrating additional features such as donation forms, event calendars, and multimedia content to enhance user engagement
  • Improving the accessibility of the site to ensure we are compliant with WCAG 2.1

We expect to select a vendor on February 1st and want to launch the site in time for our 15th anniversary on December 5th.

The total budget allocated for the project is $7,000. Vendors are encouraged to provide detailed cost estimates and breakdowns in their proposals, including any additional expenses or fees that may arise during the project, such as software licensing, hosting, and ongoing maintenance and support.

Vendors should have proven experience in website design and development, particularly within the nonprofit sector. Key experience includes:

  • Working with environmental or animal-focused nonprofits
  • Experience with content management systems such as WordPress or Drupal
  • Experience with Salesforce, FundraiseUp, and MailChimp
  • Demonstrated knowledge of accessibility and responsive design

Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Experience and expertise in nonprofit website design and development
  • Alignment with project goals and objectives
  • Proposed approach and methodology
  • Cost-effectiveness and value for money
  • Demonstrated understanding of the organization’s mission and values

Proposals should be submitted via email to Emily Davis (emilydavis@tigerconservationcorps.org) no later than January 15th, and should include the subject line Tiger Conservation Corps RFP Response from [Vendor Name]. Please include the following information in your proposal:

  • Company overview and relevant experience
  • Proposed approach and methodology for the project
    • Proposed approach for ensuring accessibility and inclusivity of the new site
    • Your plan to incorporate our organization’s branding and messaging into the website design
    • The measures you take to ensure the security and integrity of our website and user data
  • Detailed cost estimate and breakdown
  • Timeline and project schedule
  • References or case studies from previous projects 

Effective communication is essential throughout the project to ensure its success. The selected vendor is expected to maintain regular contact with Emily and provide updates on project progress, challenges, and milestones. Open and transparent communication will facilitate collaboration and enable us to address any issues or concerns promptly.

A Few Writing Tips for a More Successful RFP

Enhance the effectiveness of your RFP with these additional writing tips:

  • Be clear. Use simple, and concise language to communicate your requirements and expectations effectively.
  • Trim out what you don’t need. Keep your RFP focused by omitting unnecessary information or overly complex language. Define acronyms and industry-specific language.
  • Be specific. For example, link the technologies you use or want to use.
  • Be transparent with potential vendors. Foster trust and transparency by providing clear information about the budget, timeline, and selection process.
  • Proofread and edit your RFP before sending it. Ensure your RFP is free from errors and inconsistencies by thoroughly proofreading it before distribution.

Tips for Finding the Right Partner With Your RFP

After drafting your RFP, the next crucial step is finding the right partner to bring your project to fruition. This section will guide you through the vendor hiring process, detailing each step to ensure you make informed decisions and find the perfect match for your organization’s needs.

Here’s a breakdown of the vendor hiring process:

This image and the text below outline how you can find the right vendor with your RFP.

  1. Research potential vendors. Begin by researching potential vendors and seeking recommendations from trusted colleagues or industry networks. Look for vendors with relevant experience, expertise, and a track record of successful projects. Consider reaching out to your peer organizations to ask for their recommended vendors.
  2. Send your RFP to shortlisted candidates. Once you’ve identified a shortlist of potential vendors, send them your RFP and invite them to submit proposals outlining how they would address your project requirements.
  3. Set a reasonable timeframe. Give vendors a reasonable amount of time to review the RFP, ask any clarifying questions, and prepare their proposals. Consider collecting all vendor questions and publishing your answer list in a place that is available to all of them. Depending on the complexity of the project, aim for a timeframe that allows vendors to submit thorough and thoughtful proposals without rushing.
  4. Schedule meetings. Welcome the opportunity to answer questions via video call. This gives you the opportunity to get a sense of how the vendor behaves, how thoughtful they are, and how you feel when you communicate with them.
  5. Review and evaluate proposals. Review each proposal carefully, considering factors such as alignment with project goals, proposed approach, budget, timeline, and past performance. Create evaluation criteria to objectively assess and compare proposals.
  6. Interview top candidates and check references. Conduct interviews with the top candidates to gain further insights into their capabilities, communication style, and compatibility with your organization’s culture. Consider bringing a few stakeholders along for these interviews. Additionally, reach out to references provided by the vendors to validate their experience and reputation.
  7. Choose the vendor. Based on your evaluations, select the vendor that best aligns with your project requirements, budget, and organizational values. Communicate your decision to the chosen vendor and discuss next steps.
  8. Sign a contract. Before commencing work, ensure you have a signed contract in place that clearly outlines the scope of work, deliverables, timeline, payment terms, and any other relevant agreements. A well-defined contract helps mitigate risks and establishes expectations for both parties.
  9. Prioritize open communication. Foster a collaborative and communicative relationship with your chosen vendor from the outset. Clear and open communication is key to resolving issues, managing expectations, and ensuring the success of your project.

By following these steps and maintaining proactive communication throughout the vendor selection process, you’ll increase the likelihood of finding the right partner who can help you achieve your project goals effectively and efficiently.

Wrapping Up

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of our comprehensive guide on crafting effective RFPs for nonprofits. By now, you should have a solid understanding of the importance of RFPs in facilitating successful partnerships with external vendors, as well as the key elements and best practices for creating an impactful RFP.

Remember, the journey doesn’t end with drafting your RFP. The vendor hiring process outlined in this guide provides a roadmap for selecting the right partner to bring your project to life. From researching potential vendors to signing a contract and prioritizing open communication, each step is crucial in ensuring the success of your project and fostering a productive partnership.

Looking for more insights and guidance on nonprofit operations, digital strategy, and effective communication? Check out these other great resources from Cornershop Creative: