The Ultimate Nonprofit RFP Guide

This guide will tackle the nonprofit RFP process from start to finish. We’ve been through the RFP game countless times and have managed to learn a few things that we wanted to share in an attempt to help you through this frequently convoluted process. Here are the best examples, templates, and tips about the nonprofit RFP process.

The 4 Stages of a Nonprofit RFP Process

Great! You’re finally going to relaunch your website. Now what? The goal of the Request for Proposal (RFP) is to present your development project (or any project, really) in the context of your organization and larger goals. The RFP will outline the purpose of your website; the need, timing, and overview of the project, site features, and other requirements for applicants. There is no one-size-fits-all RFP, but that doesn’t mean that organizations shouldn’t feel the need to write their life story — especially if it is a small project. At Whole Whale we’ve seen RFPs that range from a one-pager to 10+ pages in length (yikes!).

Here are the 4 stages of writing an effective RFP.

1. Planning and writing the RFP

Meet with your key stakeholders and gather their project requirements to incorporate into the RFP. Scroll down to find RFP templates and examples.

2. Soliciting and managing bids

Find reputable vendors through your network and in the larger circles of your trusted online communities. Quick pre-RFP conversations are very helpful for getting better quality proposals.

3. Internal evaluation

Create clear guidelines for your project and try to rank the proposals across different attributes. Filter out the junk and only share the top proposals with the team. We recommend creating an excel doc to track the bids and give grades across desired criteria for each vendor.

4. Interviewing and deciding

Choosing the right vendor is more art than science. That said, it can be very helpful to rate all proposals along the same criteria. You will probably end up with a range of proposals: porridge that is too hot, too cold and hopefully one that is just right. We recommend putting a budget range in your proposal in order to keep bids in the right neighborhood.

Finally: A simple guide to the nonprofit RFP process. #nptech Click To Tweet

Use SNORKL to create clear RFPs and connect to great nonprofit vendors that won’t rip you off.


RFP Resources

Sample RFPs

Sample RFP Outline for a Large Project

The following covers the main components and is not an exact template to copy and paste.

  1. Purpose Overview: Purpose and objectives with summary statement of what you’re looking to do.
  2. Organization background and mission: You have a mission and vision statement, right?
  3. Project Background: Include stakeholders and history of need.
  4. Project Goals: It’s good to remember to have external and internal goals.
  5. Target Audience:  Who are you trying to reach? Include primary, secondary, and tertiary stakeholders.
  6. Existing Challenges:  Share an overview of any skeletons and internal issues that might impact the process.
  7. Feature Requirements: Describe the major required features from the perspective of the user (short user stories).
  8. Design requirements: How much is needed? Is there an existing style in place? Will it be mobile and tablet friendly? (Hint: It should be mobile- and tablet-friendly.)
  9. Technical Requirements: Integrations with existing databases, systems, and CRMs. Existing tech, desire for specific platform(s). Ability to manage the platform (content management system). Hosting needs.
  10. Reporting and analytics needs:  Google Analytics configured with goal tracking, website forms that are stored online and/or emailed.
  11. Timeline: Proposal due date, decision date, and estimated project completion date.
  12. Budget: This can be an expected range or unstated. Note that you will probably waste a vendor’s time if you give no hint as to cost — prices can range wildly based on functionality expectations. Adding a range allows firms to get a better idea of the level of complexity you think the project will have.

Proposal Instructions for a Large RFP

  • Include a sample project plan
  • Include an itemized project budget
  • Describe your approach to website design
  • Provide details regarding your website project management process
  • Provide a summary of website development experience
  • Provide existing client references — ideally related to this project
  • Identify who will be involved on your project team, including their relevant experience and credentials

Sample RFP Outline for a Small Project

  1. Purpose of proposal: Summary statement of what you’re looking to do.
  2. Organization Background: Who are you? What is your mission, and what critical information does any potential firm need to know about you before working together?
  3. Project Background: Why now? What’s wrong, and what needs will this project address?
  4. Features: Itemize the components you need.
  5. Timeline: Proposal due date, decision date, and estimated project completion date.
  6. Budget: Include a budget range. If it’s a small project, large firms may be as much as $100k off in their estimate (which helps no one).
  7. Proposal instructions: Why are you the right firm? What is your firm’s history with our cause and technology stack?

RFP Bridesmaiding

Please don’t waste companies’ time if you’re already committed to a vendor. Yes, nonprofits are required to solicit at least 3 competitive bids for projects. Companies (at least good companies) spend large amounts of time on proposals, so be honest when soliciting bids and try not to make your wedding party larger than it needs to be.


Use SNORKL to create clear RFPs and connect to great nonprofit vendors that won’t rip you off.

Get the Ultimate RFP Book

Whole Whale loves this topic so much that we wrote the book — literally. Our simple guide to creating and navigating tech RFPs is geared to help more nonprofits navigate this daunting process. Enjoy!


Watch: The Nonprofit RFP Video Trilogy

Just like Star Wars, but with less wookies. Our trilogy of videos will walk you through the RFP process.

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