RFP Response

February 21, 2015    Article

How to Respond to an RFP


The first thing to know about responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) is that you need to read it. Carefully. Surprisingly, many smart folks forget that crucial initial step and end up with pages of content that fails to meet the essential criteria of the RFP.

Here are a couple of simple and logical suggestions that you can use to make your response stand out from the crowd:

1. Keywords: The best way to figure out what is being asked for is to isolate the key ideas in the request. You can do this, be figuring out what the keywords in the RFP are and then work to closely match them in your proposal. Check out Wordle to create a free word cloud of a document that gives you a graphic representation of the keywords in the text. Incorporate the keywords of the RPF in your response.

2. Do Your Homework: The more you know about the entity that put out the RFP, the better able you are to respond. See if you can find past proposals that were accepted and make sure your response mirrors the winning style. If you can get the name of the lead reviewer, do some homework about that person’s background which may help you shape your story.

3. Don’t Be Boring: A boring proposal is annoying to read. Putting someone to sleep while reading your proposal is not likely to help you win. Pay attention to the writing style. Maybe your technical skills and low price will win the day, but don’t count on it. A compelling story is hard to turn down.

A grant proposal usually consists of three key parts: financial, technical, and narrative. The financial and technical specifications are straightforward and are frequently reviewed by software while a human reviewer will read the narrative, which often is given greater weight in awarding the grant.

For your proposal to be selected it is essential that your narrative not only effectively communicate your story, but do so in a manner that is most likely to create a positive impact on the reviewer. A compelling story must be concise, stylistically correct, and psychologically appealing for maximum effect.

A careful reading of the RFP (Request for Proposal) will give the theme of the narrative. Be sure your story stays faithful to the RFP and beware of substituting a different agenda. To be successful, the narrative should focus on the needs of the proposal, not the needs of your organization.

Often an organization will assign multiple staff to write different parts of the project. That is sensible for information gathering during the first draft, but is deadly for producing a cohesive and readable final document. The narrative, to be effective, must have a natural flow and smoothness and read as one cohesive document. There should be one person that is solely responsible for writing the final draft.

Always write your narrative with the reader in mind, which means keeping the document interesting, concise, and readable. There is an unfortunate tendency in proposal writing to believe that length equals quality when, in reality, the opposite is true. A winning proposal requires paying close attention to the specifics of the RFP and writing a creative and compelling proposal.