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What is a RFP, where to find RFPs, and are RFPs relevant?

by on May 13, 2013

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be an invaluable source of new business opportunities for your company as long as you know what they are, where to find them, and how to make strategic decisions regarding them.

We have organized this page around the following sections:
  • What is a RFP (overview)
  • Where can I find RFPs
  • Are RFPs relevant today

What is a RFP?

Quite simply:

"A request for proposal (RFP) is a solicitation document that an organization posts to elicit bids from potential vendors in order to procure a product or service through the responding business proposals. The RFP process is meant to bring structure and transparency to the procurement decision, while reducing risk through open requirements and discussion."

The actual formatting of a RFP can vary widely, and RFP quality and completeness is often a topic of heated discussion, but considering the total value of projects chosen by this method, as a vendor it is virtually impossible to ignore them as some have chosen to do.

Requests for Proposals are often issued by for-profit companies and non-profit organizations, but are required to be issued by governments and government agencies as a fair and transparent way of soliciting competitive bids.

There are a number of variations on Requests for Proposals (RFPs), namely:
  • Request for Quotations (RFQ)
  • Request for Qualifications (RFQ)
  • Request for Information (RFI)
  • Request for Tender (RFT)

Where can I find RFPs?

If you're looking for government or "public" RFPs issued by organizations governed by public procurement laws, you can always find those RFPs posted on the originating organization's website as it is almost always a requirement. For example, any City, State, or government agency typically has a purchasing or procurement section of their website for RFPs. The same generally holds true for public colleges and universities. There are also a number of private services that will sell you this same information on a subscription basis (running from $20/month to $500/month such as FindRFP and Onvia).

This doesn't typically apply for private companies or non-profit organizations, who are under less restrictions and might not publicly post their RFPs to their website. In many cases you need to contact (or be contacted by) the company to get placed on their "approved vendors" list and be notified of procurement opportunities.

The RFP Database is the only site that has a variety of government RFPs, non-profit RFPs, and even RFPs from for-profit companies, but does not charge a subscription fee.

Are RFPs relevant today?

Yes, most definitely. While the competition for public RFPs has increased, so has the need for more transparency in government spending, along with additional incentives for agencies to hire small businesses. To ignore RFPs is to ignore billions of dollars of spending, a percentage of which could be going to your business.

To compete in this market one must continually strive to create better proposals, along with making strategic decisions regarding which RFPs to pursue. Remember, not all RFPs are worth a proposal! You can also learn more about the different types of issued RFPs and your probability of winning a RFP.

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