Nonprofit Radio for June 20, 2022: Your RFP Process

 

Josh Riman: Your RFP Process

There’s a better way to manage requests for proposals, so that you weed out vendors who aren’t right, choose the best finalists, select the best provider, and transition smoothly to project launch. Josh Riman from Great Believer explains. (This is part of our coverage of #22NTC, hosted by NTEN.)

 

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[00:01:58.74] spk_0:
Hello and welcome to Tony-Martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast and oh, I’m glad you’re with me, I’d get slapped with a diagnosis of awful Modena if you paint me with the idea that you missed this week’s show your RFP process, there’s a better way to manage requests for proposals so that you weed out vendors who aren’t right, choose the best finalists, select the best provider and transition smoothly to project launch josh Lyman from Great Believer explains This is part of our coverage of 22 NTC hosted by and 10 on tony steak too. Thank you. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot C o And by 4th dimension technologies I T infra in a box. The affordable tech solution for nonprofits. tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant Just like three D but they go one dimension deeper here is your RFP process. Welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio coverage of 22 N T C. It’s the 2022 nonprofit technology conference of course you knew it was coming on non profit radio and we’re kicking off our 22 Ntc coverage with a returning Ntc guest very welcome, very glad to have you back josh Lyman President and founder of Great Believer, josh welcome back.

[00:02:06.24] spk_1:
Thanks for having me

[00:02:57.44] spk_0:
Pleasure. Real Pleasure. Thank you for, kicking off our 22 NTC coverage, your session topic at the conference was running an RFP process while keeping your cool and I see that you’re a solo this time in in the past, you’ve had, you had the support of other great believer team members now, your solo, let’s see. Let’s see how the founder and Ceo does by himself, your team is watching. That’s right. Um so what about this RFP process? I imagine you’ve filled out, I don’t know, scores maybe hundreds of these through the years. Uh great believer. What just like overview, What are we not quite getting right about our R R F P s?

[00:03:36.94] spk_1:
Yeah, I think I’ve got an interesting perspective because I’m not the one who’s writing the RFP or sending it around or reviewing it, but the one who’s actually receiving it and responding to it and like you said, we’ve seen scores and seen the good and the bad and the ugly and some are FPs are great and some RFP is leave a lot to be desired when they’re not specific enough or they’re not clear enough. And We’ve essentially created a session that organizes the RFP process into six stages which are right. The RFP distributed, hold Q and a review proposals, interview finalists and select a winner. And in looking back at other our FPs, we’ve received and things that work and things that don’t put together a series of dues and don’t that we thought could be helpful for organizations that are working on our FPs, whether it’s someone who’s an RFP wizard who does it all the time or someone who’s making their first RFP trying to give them a good place to start from.

[00:04:08.74] spk_0:
Okay. Um before you even Alright, so you have six steps, so I’m gonna be a little troublemaker. I’m gonna be like before even the first one was writing, what about, you know, do you need an RFP? Does does this project require an RFP? Do you need that kind of formal process?

[00:04:49.54] spk_1:
Our way? Nothing would have an RFP. Our understanding from talking to organizations is that there, there could be a lot of reasons the two that I’m aware of that organizations put out our FPs are a, if there’s a certain amount of budget being invested, there’s a policy that says you need to consider a certain number of vendors and in doing so you should release an RFP to make sure it’s a level playing field. That’s one reason. Another reason is that often the board stipulates that no matter what the project size might be, they want to have multiple candidates, they can review and and assess who might be the best fit. I think there could be other reasons also to play into it. But those are the ones that we often hear. I don’t think anybody likes the RFP process whether you’re the one writing it, receiving it or reviewing it, but it feels like it’s a necessary evil for a lot of nonprofits.

[00:05:10.14] spk_0:
Okay. And uh, and let’s acquaint listeners with what great believer does like what kind of R. F. P. S. Are you seeing what what is what web design I know, but you may go much deeper than web website development.

[00:05:50.34] spk_1:
No, it’s mostly that were graphic design agency for nonprofits. Web design and development is our core area of focus and most the vast majority of the RFP s that we apply to our for web. And I think that makes sense because web is often a large investment that a non profits making compared to something smaller one off projects, let’s say an annual report or something of that nature. And when they’re doing a website project, it’s often years in the making to collect the funding to get the executives on board to go for it and to actually engage someone in this project. I think because of that, they want to review multiple vendors, candidates and they also want to have a document that says, here’s exactly what we’re looking for, solve the proposals they receive are as apples to apples as can be.

[00:06:11.54] spk_0:
Right. Right. Right. Like you said, everybody’s level playing field, everybody’s had a chance to answer the exact same questions. Everybody’s seen the exact same specs, etcetera. All right. Alright. Let’s get into your your six steps writing. What do you what do you want to see us do better.

[00:06:17.14] spk_1:
Yeah. So we did a poll

[00:06:19.55] spk_0:
actually just stop. Don’t don’t. Right.

[00:06:21.98] spk_1:
Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah.

[00:06:24.31] spk_0:
You have to if you have to. All right, let’s get started.

[00:06:26.84] spk_1:
Exactly. We we did a poll at the session and asked of these six phases which one do you most to test? And again, the six phases are right. It distributed hold Q and a review proposals. Interview finalists, select a winner, the vast majority of people most to test right in the RFP. It’s definitely the hardest thing. And because of that we have the most dues and don’t that apply to that stage. So happy to just start ripping through them. And if you have any thing you want to add or questions you wanna ask, go for it.

[00:07:03.54] spk_0:
Yeah. Okay. My my fear here is that people feel that they have to be like formal, you know, like they’re almost writing a legal document. They want to be such, such great degree of specificity that I don’t know. Maybe the maybe the overall purpose gets lost in the in the in the in the weeds. We’ll find out. All right, go ahead, take off some and we’ll see

[00:07:20.24] spk_1:
Well, that’s a good point because one of our dues is be specific about your needs. But I think there is a limit there where some groups try to be so overly specific that it becomes prescriptive and you’re not letting the candidates themselves showcase their process and how they would actually solve your problems. So specific enough that the right people apply for your RFP but not so specific that it puts them into a box,

[00:08:04.24] spk_0:
right? That we have to do exactly this way. Or, you know, even though we think we have a better way and it leaves out the possibility of some, I mean, you’re a lot of your creativity is is in not only graphic design but in like database design, right? You know, the back end and, you know, they’re not availing themselves of, you know, maybe half your expertise. If they’re just if they’re speaking it out so much detail that uh, you know, they just want you to be an artist or a graphic designer and then and then like a droop a code or something. All right,

[00:08:16.02] spk_1:
Right, right. Where we’re more focused on on WordPress, but your point is

[00:08:19.34] spk_0:
it

[00:08:35.04] spk_1:
is totally legit. We don’t expect the RFP to have all the answers and we also don’t don’t expect to be able to solve everything through our proposal, but at least we want to get somewhere where it’s feeling like this could be a promising fit and we’re understanding your needs. Okay, notice.

[00:08:36.64] spk_0:
And what I say, I

[00:08:37.71] spk_1:
think that’s the balance is we shouldn’t expect the RFP to have all the right questions and then you the organization shouldn’t expect our proposal to have all the answers. We only know so much at this point, but if it seems like there’s good chemistry and it could be a good fit, then let’s move forward and talk more about the potential of working together,

[00:08:55.33] spk_0:
right? And you want to give your vendors a chance? You you mentioned this to showcase their expertise, but here’s what we bring to it, you know, let us let us share some ideas that we have that we think may be better than yours because this is what we do.

[00:09:10.00] spk_1:
Exactly you

[00:09:11.13] spk_0:
didn’t, you wouldn’t need us, you know, if you

[00:09:13.43] spk_1:
Alright,

[00:09:14.32] spk_0:
what else you got in the writing stage?

[00:09:52.54] spk_1:
Well related piece to that is you definitely want to get input when you’re working on the RFP? I think there are two groups you can get input from because writing an RFP when you started off, you could be thinking, I don’t even know where to start. How do I frame this thing? How do I organize it? How do I structure it? So two thoughts here, one is ask other organizations who have put out similar RFP s, how they did it. And we asked them to share their RFP if they’re comfortable doing so and then use that as a template and use it as a starting point, modify it as needed to best serve your organization’s needs, but don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of good RFP s out there and by asking friends in the space what they’ve done for their R. F P. S, you can probably get a good template to start from.

[00:09:59.04] spk_0:
Okay, What else you got? That’s that’s a straightforward one. Good.

[00:10:01.37] spk_1:
And then the other thing in terms of asking people for input is people at your organization? So maybe there’s a group that’s assembled, that’s the RFP team and it’s perhaps mostly the comms team, maybe some people from development, you’ll still want to survey, you know, folks in I. T. Executives, other people to make sure the RFP you put out is as comprehensive as can be in terms of collecting the goals and input from other groups of your organization. So then you get the right agency to work on this project in a way that helps everybody and doesn’t just help comms or just help development so on and so forth.

[00:10:39.54] spk_0:
I can see, you know, this is generic advice that’s gonna apply to any RFP, not only a web development project. RFP conversation.

[00:10:43.76] spk_1:
Yeah, this is, this is, this is for any RFP that anybody puts out.

[00:10:48.64] spk_0:
Yeah, more more on the writing.

[00:11:06.24] spk_1:
Got a couple more dudes in the writing stage. The first is this is kind of sounds like a simple one, but when you receive a proposal, you’re gonna learn so much about these agencies, you’re considering, you know, the project team, the process, their budget or timeline and so on and so forth. In the RFP, it’s nice to view the organization, also introduce yourselves, not just your mission and vision, but your project team. So we the agency can get a sense for who we’d be working with, you know, how big is the team, Who are they, How long have they worked there? What are their positions? That’s just a nice way to kind of level the playing field and give us the recipients and respondent to the RFP a sense for what it might be like to work with these people.

[00:11:48.44] spk_0:
Yeah. Like what, what’s their expertise, you know, the expertise, maybe all all uh, maybe it’s all technical or, or maybe it’s on the other side. Maybe it’s all graphic, communications, marketing related. And there isn’t anybody with, with, with with a technical background that’s that’s valuable for the RFP respondents to know

[00:12:23.14] spk_1:
I’ve got one more due on the right, the RFP section, which is, there’s something called intent to bid, which can be a deadline you said in your RFP that says you’ve, you know, received this RFP, you’ve read it through if you plan to submit a proposal, let us know by x date. And that’s great for the organization, primarily because then, you know, let’s say we distributed this RFP to eight groups where we know we’re gonna get five proposals and we don’t need to play a guessing game, maybe one of the people we distributed to is one that we’re secretly hoping is the best fit for us. And then you’ll know if you say again, submit your intent to bid, which is just an email where where we would email the organization and say we intend to bid on? Just on this RFP, you’ll know who’s bidding. You’ll know who’s not. And then there are fewer surprises when the actual proposal deadline hits as to who submits and who doesn’t

[00:13:32.74] spk_0:
what if your, your secret insider or not? Not necessarily inside your secret favorite, um, is not, has not said that they intend to bid do you now? I mean, you’re supposed to be fair about this too. But I mean, there’s nothing legal around it. It’s just, it’s really just ethical and moral, right? You know, you’re not supposed to be favoring the whole purpose of an RFP. Well, that’s not the whole a purpose of an RFP is the level playing field. You’re not supposed to be favoring your your favorite, you know? And so what do you, what do you do then? You just, you ought to just let it go and hope you get another another good one that rivals what you what was your favorite? That’s what you ought to do is that you think people do that or have you? I don’t know. Have you seen shenanigans? Have you seen dirty tricks around our FPs? You don’t have to name names,

[00:14:00.04] spk_1:
but I’ve definitely seen some shenanigans. I think something that you could do as the organization to inquire as to who’s gonna submit while still leveling the playing field is maybe a day before the deadline for organization for agencies to submit their intent to bid, email. Everybody that you sent the RFP to and just say just a reminder tomorrow is the deadline for receiving your intent to bid. So in case, you know, your your favorite, your secret love. It falls off their radar, but they do intend to bid. And they just honestly, for God, it gives them a second chance to do so. And then for a second reminder to do so. And if they don’t submit, then se la V. I think you’ve done everything you can while still remaining as impartial as you can.

[00:14:22.44] spk_0:
Yes, impartiality. You know. Right. All right. But you’ve seen shenanigans,

[00:14:27.84] spk_1:
believe

[00:15:25.94] spk_0:
it at that. All right. Maybe you’ve been the insider. Maybe you’ve been the beneficiary of shenanigans. We’ll leave it there. I’m not. Maybe you have. Maybe you have not. It’s just the host speculating pure speculation. It’s time for a break. Turn to communications. Have you got your crisis communications plan in place so that, you know, who’s responsible for message creation in the face of a crisis. Is it one person or a couple of folks who needs to approve the messaging? Who’s authorized to speak? Who speaks internally? Who speaks externally, there is more to a crisis communications plan than that turn to can help you with yours? Turn to communications turn hyphen two dot c o. Now back to your RFP process. You had some don’t some don’t just give us a couple of like to your top two donuts for the for writing.

[00:15:51.84] spk_1:
I’ll give you just one don’t for writing and that is don’t withhold your budget. It’s so important that the organization puts a budget in their R. F. P. It could be a specific number, it could be a range, it could be a don’t exceed this number, but if you really want that apples to apples comparison you need it and also it helps to filter down the right types of candidates. So if your budget is X and you’re clear about it, you’re gonna get candidates that can do your work for that amount. You’re not gonna get a much larger agency who can never work with you because their price for that work is four times that. And you also probably won’t get a small freelancer who is a one person show and isn’t able to do work with the kind of capacity they have. So I think budget is important because it doesn’t waste the candidate’s time in submitting a bit if they’re not the right fit from a financial perspective and doesn’t waste the organization’s time reading through proposals that ultimately have budgets in them that are way too high to make work. So sharing the budget of essential.

[00:17:08.64] spk_0:
That’s an important point that the last point because, you know, let’s continue your hypothetical, you submit to, you send it to five, sorry you send it to eight and five submit, they say they’re going to and then they do and then like four of them are out of your out of your budget range now you’ve got now you’re down to one or you’ve got to expand your budget, you know, but so I’m emphasizing that point because the obvious pushback on the nonprofit side as well, if I give them my budget or even a range, then they’re gonna go to the top end of it, they’re gonna, they’re gonna expand my budget. I tell them it’s a $30,000 project, they’re gonna, they’re gonna build me $30,000 when they would have done it for 22-5.

[00:17:32.94] spk_1:
That’s fair. But I would say just give your budget honestly put a number in there that you’re comfortable spending and no matter who it is that you choose to work with, just know that you found the right fit and sure maybe they could have done it for $5000 less. But ultimately, if that’s the budget you set aside, who cares, that was already set aside for the project. So just put it toward it.

[00:18:09.14] spk_0:
Okay, well put, I agree and and it is, it is valuable. I I, you know, as a plan giving consultant when I’m at the inquiry stage, I don’t, I think, I don’t know in in in 19 years of consulting, I’ve probably done like two RFP S so they’re highly, highly very rare. Um, But you know, but in conversations I always ask for a budget or a range, you know, I need to know is, you know, everything we just scoped out in a, in a great, you know, 30 minute conversation is your budget in line with the aspirations that you just identified.

[00:18:13.44] spk_1:
No,

[00:18:32.34] spk_0:
If I’m thinking this is, a a $30,000 project and you’re thinking it’s an $8,000 project. we’re not, you know, either you’ve got to scale down your aspirations or you’ve got to bring up your budget because we’re not even close. So it’s, it’s, it’s critical, it’s, it’s, it is critical to share your budget. All

[00:18:52.04] spk_1:
right. And, and I do think that the way things are moving more organizations are more comfortable sharing budgets. And I think this is in some ways working in parallel to job listings. I feel like many more job listings these days have the actual salary requirements, whether it’s a specific number or a range, especially in the nonprofit space. I know that web sites like idealist essentially mandate that you share a salary, which I think is great. And I think those things again, are moving in parallel and there’s definitely a movement toward transparency.

[00:19:20.44] spk_0:
A lot of that is equity too. That, that, that minority populations are going to be, uh, are going to be Disadvantaged when it comes to the salary discussion because they’re generally, you know, paid less. So N 10 is another example of that. N 10 requires either a, either a number or a range. They require at least a range in their job listings too. So

[00:19:26.42] spk_1:
I love that.

[00:19:27.41] spk_0:
Um I agree. Yeah, distribution.

[00:20:54.74] spk_1:
Yes. Now it’s time you’ve you’ve you’ve written your RFP now it’s time to send it out. I’ve got one doing one don’t that are essentially opposite sides of the same coin. Do is you need to find qualified candidates. So consider people you’ve worked with before, ask around, ask other organizations who have done similar projects in the past, who they worked with and how well it went, do some research, you know, do some online digging, search for some key words that take you to groups that maybe you’re not aware of or people in your network are not aware of that. You think could be a good fit. We get a lot of RFP some people to find us online through searching for, you know, design agencies in new york city or nonprofit focused design agencies in Brooklyn, whatever the keywords are that bring people to us. So it’s essential to find qualified candidates. And the flip side to this coin is do not blast out your RFP to the masses and you know, we see this happen a lot and I understand why it happens. There are websites like RFP DB dot com. There are other places to post your RFP s. You can put it on a list, serve like the progressive exchange and you are going to get a lot of respondents and you’re gonna get a ton of junk, you’re gonna get people who don’t thoroughly read your RFP that are just spending 10 minutes on it that don’t really understand who you are. And it’s gonna create a lot of extra work for you to review these and try to pick out the, you know, the needles in the haystack that are actually fits for you. So it will take time to find the right groups to send your RFP to. I know we said eight as a number before. I think it is a good number to shoot for try to shoot for at least five that you feel good about. But if you spend the time to make sure those you send it to our actual potentially good fits, it’ll pay off in the end. Save you some time.

[00:21:12.74] spk_0:
I like the idea of asking for a an intent uh what do you say? An intent to

[00:21:17.34] spk_1:
intend to bid,

[00:21:44.14] spk_0:
intend to bid because then if you know, if you only come back with one or two intends to bid then to be fair to everybody, you might want to revise your RFP or you might end up sending it to more more agencies than you, you know, and then you have to expand the deadline I guess. Yeah, you would um you know, but you want to reassess if you’re only going to get like one or two out of out of however many you you you distributed, you know, one or two is Not, it’s not so good. Well one is terrible

[00:21:47.20] spk_1:
too.

[00:21:55.34] spk_0:
Is is always like is half as bad as terrible, bad, terrible. Three is one third is bad. So you know you wanna have a decent number to choose from.

[00:21:57.64] spk_1:
Yeah

[00:23:02.04] spk_0:
right it’s time for a break. Fourth dimension technologies. Their I. T. Solution is I. T. Infra in a box. It’s budget friendly. It’s holistic. You pick what you need and you leave the rest behind. That’s why it’s your I. T. Buffet. Why is it budget friendly? Because you’re picking what you can afford from their extensive buffet. Your budget can’t afford Chateaubriand for two. Have a hamburger. No chocolate souffle. Get the brownie. You choose what’s right for your I. T. Situation and your budget. Fourth dimension technologies. tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant D. Just like three D. But they go one dimension deeper. Let’s return to your RFP. Process the Q. And A. Stage. Should be the Q. And A. That’s for um who’s that? Is that for the bidders to to ask questions.

[00:24:11.34] spk_1:
Exactly. So the two things here the first is that there should be a deadline in your RFP that says you need to send us all of your questions by X. Date and that’s important to give people an opportunity to help to put things into focus or clarify different parts of your RFP to make sure they’re the right fit. And also that they understand how to price it out and how to develop a process around it. And then so that’s a do set a deadline for all questions. I would say give candidates at least two weeks when they receive your RFP to submit their questions to you and just submit them through email and then the don’t is don’t withhold Q and a results. And by that, I mean, don’t just send the answers directly to the people that ask the questions, send the answers to every question to everyone you send your RFP to. Even if someone didn’t ask you a single question, you need to share the answers with them because there might be things that you answer that fundamentally change the structure of your RFP or the process or the old ultimate goal that you’re looking to strive toward. So it’s essential and will be often received. And we love

[00:24:15.04] spk_0:
a google

[00:24:27.84] spk_1:
doc or a word doc that just has all the questions in there divided into categories. So maybe there’s a question about timeline, a question about budget, a question about process, a question about logistics, whatever it might be. And it’s not saying like great believer asked this question and so and so asked this question. It’s just questions and answers. It’s very generically formatted, ideally divided into sections and it’s so helpful for everybody to receive.

[00:24:51.14] spk_0:
Do you only do that at the end of the question period or are you doing it? Are you updating it as questions come in because it might stimulate because those questions might stimulate new questions. And if you only did it at the deadline then then it’s too late for the people to ask those new questions.

[00:25:23.94] spk_1:
Yeah that’s a good question. I would recommend doing it once. And then if people still have questions after that then they can make clear that they’re making assumptions in the in their proposal and that’s okay. They can just say like here’s a piece, I’m not sure about it, we’re gonna approach it like this. But if you have other thoughts then we can reevaluate. But I think the way it usually works is the Q. And A. Where all the questions are collected and then all the answers are distributed usually answers like 95% of the questions. Because if you’ve got five groups that are really engaged in the process and sending really thoughtful questions between those five groups you’re gonna answer almost everything and between those five groups they’re probably gonna have a lot of similar questions also.

[00:25:49.24] spk_0:
Okay okay so one time one shot. Alright alright reviewing stage,

[00:26:31.54] spk_1:
you called your QA if you’ve you’ve received the proposals now it’s time to review them. And the first well these two DUIs are are related because you’ve got to get an RFP review team, it shouldn’t just be on like a single person let’s say to review all of these proposals and say who the winner is. You need to develop a team ideally it should be. Should people should be people expand different departments. Somebody in com somebody in development, somebody in I. T. So on and so forth? There should be some nice representation there and you also need scoring criteria. So there should be kind of a rubric rubric that you develop where you can score each proposal based on let’s say the plan they put together the experience, they demonstrate the budget, they share their timelines. Reference like

[00:26:35.04] spk_0:
a one through five. You know again you’re trying to level playing field. Should should every evaluator evaluate every proposal.

[00:27:19.84] spk_1:
Yeah that’s that’s the goal. Everybody evaluates every proposal. But you could also say okay we’ve got these five scoring criteria you know let’s say it’s project plan experience, budget, timeline and the understanding of your mission. You may say I don’t want those to be equally weighted for us. I think project plan is 40% and we think that the budget is 10% whatever that is. You can then assign different weights different categories but you should still evaluate every proposal with the same way. And literally when you finish reviewing a proposal score it Have those those five columns right there and give it a score on a scale of 1-5 and then do it blindly and then come together as a team afterwards and look at how you all review these groups and see which one has the highest average score or which let’s say three had the highest average score and those are the ones you might want to interview in the next stage.

[00:27:50.84] spk_0:
You mentioned something review blindly. So are we is your recommendation that you not know who the who the respondent is? Is that what you meant?

[00:27:52.54] spk_1:
I think it’s okay to know who they are. What I meant was um if you got a review team of four people review them in isolation from each other and then come together and share your unbiased thoughts.

[00:28:30.74] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. Alright, interesting. Yeah everybody everybody should get a shot. It’s like college admissions. I think everybody should get a shot at all the all the bidders. Okay um mm the review stage. So now it’s um does it happen much in review that that the organizations come back with questions or is that more of that’s more of like interviewing the finalists stage?

[00:29:10.04] spk_1:
Yeah that’s the that’s the interview stage for sure. I we well before I get there I want to share one. Don’t that I think is really important for the review proposal stage which is we said this before, there could be like a secret favorite. You have someone who submits a bit. Oh they did hooray and then the proposal looks good. I think we’re ready to move forward but try your best not to prejudge any candidates because whether you’re looking for a specific candidate or not? You might be surprised. You know some groups are small, some are big, some of you may be aware of. Some you may not be aware of. Some are based in the same town as you, some are based across the country. What I found is you may be surprised by who you ultimately think is your best fit and going to the review process with an open mind.

[00:31:12.64] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. Hard to do. But still it’s an it’s an aspiration. You know, if you have a favorite, it’s hard to abandon that and and keep that open mind. But you should, you should try try. You might be short changing your organization there maybe and like you said, there might be an agency out there that you don’t know or that you don’t, it’s not one of your favorites. Maybe you know them, but it’s not a favorite, but maybe come in a little lower cost seems to be a comparable work. Yeah. They seem to be a little friendlier, you know? Yes. Alright. Keep an open mind level playing field. It’s time for Tony’s take two time for me to thank you again for listening for supporting nonprofit radio I’m grateful. Any sharing that you might be doing so that the love gets shared. You’re learning your friends are learning whoever you’re sharing with your board is learning. If you’re sharing with your board, your colleagues are learning if you’re sharing with them. So thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing share share. That’s fair. That’s way that’s the way I grew up. So no, thank you. Uh, if it wasn’t for you, There wouldn’t be 13,000 plus listeners each week. So I am grateful that you listen to non profit radio I’m ecstatic that it helps you. That’s the point helps you in your work. Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting the show. That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo but loads more time for your RFP process with josh Lyman, your finalists. You wanna talk to some finalists.

[00:31:36.14] spk_1:
Absolutely. So a couple of dudes and don’t hear when it comes to interviewing finalists. So you’ve done your review process, you’ve scored everybody. Schedule calls with a handful of candidates. So if you’ve submitted, if you said your RFP to eight people, let’s say five groups submitted proposals. Speak to three to your point before. Don’t speak with to that that’s two for you don’t speak with one. You probably also should not speak with all five because ultimately, when you look at the scores, there should be, there should be some candidates that rise above the rest and you should save yourself the time of interviewing the candidate that you think truly might not be the right fit and you’re just doing it to do it. So try to filter that process down to the handful of candidates that feel like they could be the best fit.

[00:31:56.54] spk_0:
Are you informing the ones that are not finalists that that they’re out of the process or is it better to keep them in your back pocket just in case one of your top three doesn’t pan out.

[00:32:23.14] spk_1:
You know, this is an interesting question. I’ve got a really important do about this in a little bit, but I would say it’s okay to keep them in the back pocket at this point, but there needs to be a lot of transparency later in the process and I’ll I’ll tease that for now. I’ll get back to it in a second.

[00:32:25.14] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. What what other advice uh talking to the finalists?

[00:32:29.24] spk_1:
Two things. The other do is ask to speak to your potential project team. The goal being you don’t want to just speak to generic representatives from an agency you’re considering. See if you can speak to the people, you’d actually be working with. Your account director, your designer, your developer, your project manager or your copyright or whatever that person is. Um to actually see what kind of chemistry there is and what kind of car that that’s essential. And it’s not always possible. Some bigger agencies may say, look, I’m sorry. We don’t know what our project team might be. You know, we are more of a small agency were about a full time team of 10. So when we are proposing to work on a project, we already know who might be working on it. I think that actually puts us at a bit of an advantage because you can meet the people you’d be working with, not just people that you may or may not be working with.

[00:33:21.04] spk_0:
You want to talk to the Ceo as well, bringing, bringing him or her as well as your, as your, your potential project team.

[00:33:52.74] spk_1:
Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, we are again, we’re a full time team of 10 and I as the president and founder, I’m creating all the proposals. So I’m always the person who’s working on these and submitting them. It might be tougher if you’re considering working with a much bigger agency to get the, you know, the top brass into the room, but if you want to meet the people at top, you can always give it a shot. And honestly, if you ask if somebody can join and they say no, maybe that’s a sign you should keep.

[00:34:06.84] spk_0:
Yeah, yeah. What what what’s the value of your work, what’s the importance of your work to this uh, to this agency? You know, the Ceo can’t give up half an hour. All right, josh. Lyman will never turn you down.

[00:34:08.50] spk_1:
You

[00:34:10.07] spk_0:
asked for the CEO, you will get the Ceo President President. Um, okay, more more more advice around talking to the talking two finalists.

[00:34:50.74] spk_1:
One more piece. Which is in these conversations. I think you mentioned this before. You alluded to it when it comes to writing the RFP, it doesn’t need to be a formal meeting. You can keep it light. One of the best meetings that we had as part of an RFP process was we ate lunch with an organization who was considering us for the project and we did not talk about our proposal for a single minute. We just had lunch, we talked about each other, we talked about where we came from, you know, we talked about our interests and hobbies and T V. Shows and whatever and it was really fun hour and they called us the next day and said we’re in so it doesn’t, it doesn’t need to be that informal, but it’s important to not keep things so formal and so structured and so buttoned up because that’s not what it’s gonna feel like when you work with this agency, so try to replicate that feeling. Hopefully

[00:35:18.24] spk_0:
not right. I mean, this is this is an an iterative process, There’s so much back and forth. You know, this could be a six month project, you know, you want to uh yeah, you wanted to make sure you have chemistry with the folks that you’re gonna be working with,

[00:35:21.64] spk_1:
you

[00:35:29.24] spk_0:
don’t want it to be so formal that you don’t, you know, you know, you feel like, wow, maybe I better not bother them now or something like that. That’s that’s that’s a bad feeling like, you know, they wouldn’t give us, they didn’t give us much time or I felt awkward asking questions, you know, that’s those are all red flags big

[00:36:11.73] spk_1:
time and when you think about it, a lot of projects that require an RFP are pretty long term projects. A website could take up to a year. It could take longer depending upon the goals of the project. So you want to make sure you get along with these people because you’re gonna spend a lot of time with them over the course of the project. So use that meeting as a litmus test to see how well you get along with the candidate, how well the candidate gets along with you and then make that part of your criteria as to who goes from a finalist to an actual wegner that you want to work with.

[00:36:22.13] spk_0:
What’s like a median time for the projects you’ve done. Can you say, you know what, what should folks plan on? What what’s the median, a median time arrange for a, for a let’s say, a complete, not just a refresh, but a completely new new new site.

[00:36:57.03] spk_1:
Sure. For us it’s about 10 months and that’s because the first few months of the process, we’re not doing any work yet. We’re just doing research. So we’re doing interviews. Were researching your current site, we’re talking to other stakeholders in your network and we spent a lot of time on that before the work actually starts. So we are in the 10 month range for a full website redesign. There are groups that can do it faster. There are groups that spend more time on it, but For us a great believer, it’s going to be about 10 months.

[00:37:20.93] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. Um, so that is that, is that it for questioning the questioning the finalists? Oh and uh, who should be doing these questions? Should do you have like if you had a panel of three or four reviewers, those three or four reviewers be in the in the meeting? Because because that’s how you get, you know, you you want multiple people, I would think right?

[00:37:49.23] spk_1:
Yeah, I think that would be perfect. And if there are other people in your organization who you think might be on the project team, people that are on the day to day communications with you, the agency you hire those people should also be in the meeting and you don’t want it to evolve into something where there are like nine of you and three of them. But all the key players that have been involved in the process so far and those that are gonna be involved in the project with whoever you move forward with should be there.

[00:37:51.93] spk_0:
Okay. And selection?

[00:38:33.22] spk_1:
Yeah, this is it. So you’ve you’ve you’ve interviewed your candidates, you found one that you know you want to move forward with. So doing a don’t here to do is share the news with all candidates in a timely manner. So once you have made your selection, the contract is signed, then you can say send an email to everybody saying like thank you, we’ve made a selection, you know, we appreciate the work you put in your proposal. We’re going in a different direction and do that in a timely matter because people I know like myself were wondering, you know, where do things stand? Are we still in the running? We were a finalist. But how did that meeting go? Did it go well, are we gonna get to work? So that’s the do. And then in that email, this is the don’t which is don’t give the people, you did not select the finalists. You did not select the cold shoulder. What I would suggest, what I appreciate immensely is if in that email with the organization

[00:38:46.00] spk_0:
there have been that you did not get

[00:38:48.92] spk_1:
Yes,

[00:38:50.17] spk_0:
that’s happened to you. Absolutely

[00:38:52.29] spk_1:
do

[00:38:53.97] spk_0:
believe it. How could that happen? I can’t I can’t imagine it.

[00:40:06.41] spk_1:
I appreciate the endorsement. But for us we’re trying to learn from those that we don’t get is the why. And in that email where organizations say, you know, we’ve chosen to work with somebody else. For me, I understand like we’re we’re one of many who submitted a bid and we gave it our best shot. But what I want to have the opportunity to debrief with the organization and this could be as simple as a 15 minute phone call where the organization says, you know, here’s why the agency we selected stands out here are some things with your proposal that we fell fell short and and push you down to like a second tier was the other group rose to the top. And the organization may also say they’re comfortable, here’s who will be working with those kind of things are so valuable. I think organizations are often well intentioned and extremely respectful, but they can forget sometimes how much work goes into a really good proposal. A really bad one could take an hour, a really good one can take a day or more of time creating a thing, developing a timeline, developing a budget, talking to team members, making sure the process makes sense for these specific organizations needs. So Just a 15 minute phone call and look, I know it’s not the most comfortable thing to do to talk to an an agency you’re not working with but they are gonna be so appreciative of the opportunity. Some may not even take you up on it. But those that do will be happy to have the conversation and learn more about the process. They’re not gonna go into the conversation with like a chip on their shoulder. They’ll just go in looking to learn more.

[00:41:04.71] spk_0:
Yeah, they certainly should not. Yeah, you’re being very generous if you’re if you offer that offer that to the folks who weren’t selected. Yeah. And and if you look, if somebody does come, You know vindictive, you know, then you know that you made, you know that your selection process works because you suss them out. Okay. You just had to sit through an awkward 15 minute phone call that validated your process come. Yeah, yeah. I do find that valuable. Remember the last time I I asked it wasn’t offered and I asked and then I just didn’t hear back. You know, you know, basically an email said I’d like to know how I came up short, it’s happened to tony-martignetti I know it’s hard to believe

[00:41:06.99] spk_1:
too, but

[00:41:38.81] spk_0:
I’ve also not gotten something that I’ve been on one time and uh yeah, you like to know, you know, it’s just it’s just a gracious way of, it’s just a gracious way of conducting business to share your lessons, maybe, you know, help someone be better for next time. They’re not gonna try to talk you out of their decision that that’s that would be ludicrous. They’re not gonna go that far, it might be vindictive, but they’re not gonna try to talk you out of your, you know, they’re certainly not gonna try to talk you out of your decision. Um So yeah, that’s very that’s a good idea, josh. Very yeah, very magnanimous.

[00:42:18.70] spk_1:
It’s such a it’s so much appreciated because when I look back at proposals that I submitted to organizations, let’s say 56 years ago, there’s so much better and more thoughtful now because we’ve evolved as an organism as an agency. But also because we’ve gotten great input from those organizations. We submitted bids to that we did not win. And that’s helped influence how we evolve the way we pitch ourselves. So it’s it’s extremely beneficial. And again just a nice way to be magnanimous to use your word and show some appreciation to these agencies that truly wanted to work with you and gave it their all. Because if they’re a finalist they really did want to work with you. It’s not one of the groups that submitted this, you know crappy fill in the blank

[00:42:23.80] spk_0:
proposal. Yeah

[00:42:25.35] spk_1:
They genuinely put effort into it. So give them 15 minutes of your time and it’ll be much appreciated

[00:43:01.10] spk_0:
but good. Yes good karma. Um so some dates that belong in the in the RFP, you know the the deadlines that you’re specifying. I’ve got, you know the intent to bid then when the question period is gonna be I guess. And then should you say, you know what your review period is gonna be like we’re gonna take these three weeks or these two or three weeks to during for review and then and then the selection date, Are there other, are there other milestones you should you should be including,

[00:43:30.20] spk_1:
well I think you you got it. The one thing I recommend is flipping have the Q. And a deadline first and then they intend to bid after. So all the agencies can understand the questions that are being asked and then confirm if they might be the right fit to submit a bid. So Q. And a deadline, you know at least two weeks after the RFP is distributed intend to bid maybe a week or two after that. And I love it when there’s a little grid in the RFP that says, you know, um Q. And a deadline this intend to bid deadline, this your proposals do this date, we’re going to review over the span of these two weeks. Here’s another, this is like a more off the top of the head thing.

[00:43:43.18] spk_0:
It’s

[00:44:24.19] spk_1:
almost never that an organization says we’re going to review proposals during this time frame that they just need that much time. They always need more time. So when you’re writing a proposal, give yourself more time If you are gonna share how much time you want to spend reviewing tag on a week, because it’s gonna take more time than you think. Not just to get through all of them, but to have everybody internally score them. So I think it’s great to have that time in there. And if you can estimate when you’re going to actually interview finalists and make a selection, That’s great. And look, you can put a note. These are estimated dates are subject to change. But if you can give organisms or agencies rather who are applying a sense for what’s to come, That’s really great because they they’re probably pitching several other things at the same time, I want to make sure they can not just get your proposal and on time but make themselves available for potential interviews.

[00:44:34.50] spk_0:
Alright overall, you want to just make this a humane process,

[00:44:39.29] spk_1:
you

[00:45:03.39] spk_0:
may be humane, we’re talking to human beings. You don’t have to be overly formalistic. Um, you probably don’t want to be, you know that may put people off, that may put agencies off. Like we said in the beginning, they feel they have no latitude. That may discourage some bids. So right. Running you an RFP process while keeping your cool. Yeah. Bu man, come on.

[00:45:05.39] spk_1:
We’re

[00:45:13.59] spk_0:
all, we’re all humans. Alright, josh Excellent. Anything parting words you want to leave folks with reporting advice.

[00:45:16.19] spk_1:
Mm Yeah, I think you know, I think these dudes and don’t are really helpful and I mentioned this in the session but if you want to skip the RFP process, come straight to us, happy to work with you on a different website. Projects design and development and other facets also like branding in print. But I understand that our FPs are like I said before a necessary evil and when they are required. Hopefully these dudes and don’t make the process a little bit easier.

[00:45:41.19] spk_0:
Okay, great believer. What’s the website?

[00:45:43.69] spk_1:
Great believer dot us

[00:45:46.59] spk_0:
josh Lyman founder and president, Great believer, Great believer dot us josh. Thank you very much. Good to talk to you. Thanks for sharing all your ideas.

[00:45:54.94] spk_1:
Thanks tony

[00:46:54.48] spk_0:
my pleasure next week. The chronicle of philanthropy will go non profit with editor Stacy palmer. If you missed any part of this week’s show. I Beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn knife into dot C. O And by 4th dimension Technologies IT Infra in a box. The affordable tech solution for nonprofits. tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant four D, Just like three D. But they go one dimension deeper. Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott Stein, thank you for that. Affirmation scotty be with me next week for non profit radio Big non profit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.

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