ISSUE NUMBER 8   |   MAY 12, 2014 
Successful RFP Management for Foundations - 10 Tips to Select the Best Grantees

The Request for Proposals (RFP) is essential to the way many organizations make grants - so improvements in the RFP process can have a profound impact on grantmaking success. Over the years, my experience and research have revealed 10 steps a funder can take to help make RFPs successful:

1. Be crystal clear on what you want to accomplish with your funding initiative.

This means understanding your vision, your mission, your objectives and strategies, and what dollar amount you want to use to achieve your goals.

2. Envision your ideal applicants.

Who do you want to apply for this funding initiative? What kind of organizations? What skill level and experience do they need to have? Do you want an organization that has been doing this work for a long time - one you can take to the next level - or would you prefer to fund a start-up?

3. Put customer service first.

Your first customer is the beneficiary (the person, family, or community that you seek to help); be sure that your approach is of greatest value to that person or group. The second customer is the nonprofit organizations that will be responding to your RFP. Treat them like customers, not like servants; don't make them jump through unnecessary hoops or give them unrealistic deadlines.

4. Conduct significant outreach to potential applicants.

If your RFP is open (anyone can apply), how will your ideal applicant learn about it - what networks and associations can help you disseminate the RFP? You face similar issues even with an invitation-only RFP: You might need to do some initial research to find the best nonprofits to invite - and everyone will need plenty of time to apply.

5. Get honest feedback from people outside your organization

Share a draft of the RFP with heads of organizations similar to your ideal applicant or with funder colleagues from other foundations. Give them permission to give you honest feedback, including criticism that tests your assumptions. You don't want to solicit feedback from people who will just tell you that everything looks great.

Want to learn the other 5 tips? Click here to read the full article.

2014 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

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Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is the president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc. and author of the Philanthropy411 blog.

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