Honest truth: In my career as a K-20 researcher and program evaluator, I have responded to numerous open response to proposals (RFPs) and spent an inordinate amount of time critically thinking, planning, collaborating, collecting documents and references (including notarized documents), and submitting both short-and-long proposals to various potential clients/funders.
And I speak from experience, sometimes, high risk doesn’t equate to high rewards.
Responding to RFPs takes a lot of time. Especially, if you are small business owner or starting out as an evaluator looking to build your clientele, being mindful and strategic are key.
Although, the figure below – based on my experience responding to evaluation RFPs – doesn’t cover all aspects or tell the whole story too well, but, suffice it to say that there are a few clear tell tales and indicators that may help you navigate and decide if you should pursue a particular opportunity via an RFP.
So, when does an RFP spark joy?
YES or MAYBE, if:
1. It’s your area(s) of interest, well within your wheelhouse and you have a team who can work on the proposal and project efficiently
2. The goals and objectives of the project are clear and the evaluation needs are well laid out-written/explained
3. The scope of work and budget (if shared) are doable and within your range and expectations
4. It’s an open bid and not “wired” to a particular organization/firm or an individual
5. There are Q and A and follow-up opportunities with the funder(s) to seek clarity on the scope of work
6. You have time and resources to devote to the planning and submission of the RFP.
NO or PROBABLY NOT, if
1. You don’t have the time and/or the resources to devote time and effort to plan and submit (another) RFP
2. You don’t have a team (but may need to build one in a short period of time — there are pros and cons to this)
3. The RFP is not well written/conceptualized and the evaluation needs are not clearly mentioned (or confusing at best!)
4. Seems as though it’s been written for and by someone (possibly wired)
5. Budget (if shared) is unrealistic and so are project timelines, expectations, and deliverables
6. AND again, you don’t have the time!
Let it go. Let it go.