Advice on Preparing an RFP
Is your stand-alone organization seeking greater efficiencies and economies of scale? Or, perhaps you’re looking for a change from your current association management company. Maybe you have reached the point in your association’s evolution when you need to hire new professional staff.
Whatever the reason may be, the initial step is to develop a request for proposal (RFP).
Developing an RFP that will attract the right type of quality responses from management companies that will help your organization meet, and exceed, its goals is critical to accomplishing your strategic goals.
Knowing what you want is important, but, communicating it clearly is just essential.
Who prepares the RFP?
The best way to begin is to form a small task force, or a search committee, of involved officers or board members who are knowledgeable about the work of the association. Often, when work is divided among a number of volunteers, or delegated to staff, it can be difficult to define exactly what’s involved in the management of the association and what is needed for future management.
What should the RFP include?
Provide a profile of your organization. A good starting point is to complete a “Request for Association Information” form which will answer many of the questions that AMCs need to know about the organization.
Here is sample for your reference:
- Name of your organization:
- Is your organization incorporated? If so, in what state?
- Is your organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as tax exempt? If so, under what code (i.e. 501 (c)(3), 501 (c)(6))?
- What is the purpose of your organization?
- What is your current mission statement?
- What type of organization is it?
- Please describe your board structure/composition?
Please provide details of the various committees your organization currently has:
- Who is currently managing the association?
- How many members do you have? What are the categories of membership?
- What is the potential number of members available in your profession or industry?
- What is your total budget?
- What is the present dues structure?
- Describe your governance structure. (Attach an organizational chart if available.)
- How often does your governing body meet?
- Does your organization have a strategic plan? Goals?
- What are your most urgent problems or concerns?
- What are the most significant accomplishments you wish to achieve through a management transition and what do you feel is a reasonable time frame in which you would expect them to be achieved?
Be sure to provide other profile and narrative information that will help the AMC understand the scope of the association’s activities and programs.
Be realistic. Avoid “wish lists.” Rather, describe the essential services your organization requires, areas where volunteer time and talent are not being contributed, and areas where the expertise of a professional in association management is needed.
Be specific. If you ask for a proposal to “manage our annual conference,” AMCs will require a great deal of additional information, such as: duration of the conference, format, number of attendees, number of programs, specifics on social events, details on exhibit management services to be provided, and publications associated with the event.
A similar level of specification will be required if you request a quotation for “publishing the newsletter.”
Include samples, whenever possible, of your newsletter, convention brochure, membership directory, operating budget, trade show brochure, and bylaws. Remember, you can’t provide too much information.
What is the deadline for responding?
- Provide specific information on process and deadlines. A reasonable amount of time for the AMC to respond to the RFP is typically four to six weeks.
- Detail what the AMC needs to include with the response.
- Request a list of references, a company profile, and background on the staff to be assigned to the association.
- Describe how will your selection be made.
- Often the search committee will select two or three final candidates to be interviewed by the full board. Give the date of the final interviews, the date the decision will be made, and when prospects will be notified. Include the name of the individual who will respond to questions.
Who should receive the RFP?
Many associations wish to contract with a management company that manages associations similar in size, or in industries similar, to theirs. The business of managing an association, however, requires a body of knowledge unrelated to the industry or professional practice of the organization’s members. More important than whether the company “speaks your members’ language” is its level of experience in association management, including: expertise in non-profit tax and regulatory issues; governance structure and volunteer relations; and legal issues such as foundations and subsidiary corporations, generation of non-dues income, and chapter relations.