Tag Archives: fundraising management

The important role of an RFP

RFPNonprofit organizations often secure the services of fundraising related consultants and contractors to support operations and growth. Services may be needed to supplement the expertise of current staff, to add specific skill set for a limited amount of time, or because it is more cost effective to contract for services than to hire full-time employees.

Services that could be put out to bid include direct mail, special event design and management, proposal writing, feasibility studies, campaign counsel, online giving, marketing and advertising, prospect research, executive and employee search services, technology, training services and staff development, premiums and promotional materials, and phonathons.

In all cases a written request for proposals (RFP) helps facilitate a successful engagement.

While it takes time to craft an RFP there are many benefits to be achieved. First, the process will force you and your team to think through what you want to achieve from engaging an outside firm. It serves as a basis for the scope of work that will guide the firm’s work and your evaluation of it. You will have a better idea of the amount of time and resources required by your organization to support the work of the contractor or consultant. You will have created a “fair playing field” for those who are competing for your business, and a basis from which your team can evaluate proposals.

Getting started. Convene a team to create the RFP and establish a method of evaluation. Most RFPs include a brief organizational overview and history; a project description, budget, and timeframe; requirements related to experience, capacity, and technology; and submission deadlines and dates by which decisions will be made. Evaluation includes determining, for example, the importance of methodology, experience, and price. Are they equally weighted, or are methodology and experience more important than price? How will “points” be assigned? On a scale of 100, would each receive 33.3 points, or would 40 points be assigned to methodology, 50 to experience and 10 to price? Scoring RFPs reduces subjectivity, provides management with a rationale for contracting, and provides vendors with the opportunity to learn how their proposal rated and why.

Regardless the size of your organization, the RFP process provides an opportunity to evaluate proposals on an “apples-to-apples” basis. If you are not required to issue an RFP and have already decided which vendor you want to work with, think long and hard before issuing one. Staff, board members, volunteers and vendors all invest time and resources in the RFP process: a common complaint is that the process is a “sham,” as a decision had been made in advance. Finally, the RFP process can diminish conflicts of interest and contribute to transparency and accountability. It is another way to strengthen the health of your nonprofit.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Are you headed for a fundraising crisis?

Government Shutdown Saad & ShawThe first 16 days of October were a demonstration of “governing by crisis.” The federal government was shut down, hundreds of thousands of government employees were furloughed; small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals were impacted in ways big and small; and the business of governing was brought to a standstill because Congress could not pass a budget.

Here is our question to nonprofit leaders: are you addressing the critical fundraising and fund development issues that support long-term nonprofit financial, or are you headed for a fundraising crisis?

Refusing to address fundraising fundamentals is a recipe for disaster. Here are a few examples of what we mean.

Is your nonprofit operating from a fundraising plan? Do you have a development committee of the board that sets fundraising policy, recruits volunteers, recommends fundraising budgets, and ensures meaningful giving and involvement by all board members? Do you have market-based feedback that informs management decisions regarding revenue (fundraising)? Have you created fundraising projections that you measure progress against on a monthly basis? What are your long-term projections for operations and what are you doing today to create a diverse revenue base – and volunteer base! – that will support your institution now and in the future?

If your institution is supported with government grants, can you accurately assess the likelihood of grant renewal? Do you have your finger on the public policy pulse, your competition, and the extent to which your program exemplifies best practices? Is your plan to eliminate services if your grant is not renewed? Will you cross that bridge when you come to it, or do you have a “Plan B?”

If your organization receives multi-year foundation grants are you prepared for a phase-out of funding? Have you identified replacement funding? Are you seeking to raise capital funds for construction or renovation of facilities without a fundraising budget? Do you expect current staff and volunteers to raise new funds without additional resources? Likewise, are you seeking to expand programs, or build a reserve or endowment without knowing the activities and costs associated with such fundraising? How are you budgeting (and staffing) for increased revenue?

If your college or university is impacted by changes in the Parent Plus loan program and the resulting decrease in enrollment, can you focus on these issues while sustaining and growing your annual and major gifts fundraising? Do you have the leadership and structures in place to pursue multiple critical issues at one time, or is fundraising on the backburner?

Here’s what we know: fundraising always needs to be front and center. You need to know where your money will come from. Failure to plan is planning to fail. Don’t put your nonprofit at financial risk. Crisis fundraising is not a plan: there is a long list of nonprofits who found this out the hard way.

Photo credit: Marina Noordegraaf http://goo.gl/upR3dp.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.