The funder’s opportunity to convey to potential applicants exactly what the funder expects is called the Request for Proposal. The Request for Proposal (RFP) is the vehicle by which funders receive offers in the form of proposals to deliver the project or service that the funder is looking for. While there is no definitive form that the RFP will take, it will reflect the culture of the funder and will issue the request in the hopes of eliciting appropriate responses.

The RFP usually has a format that will either elicit responses of a specific nature in reference to an identified goal, or one that is more of a general nature in which the applicant has a greater degree of liberty in proposing his or her project or program.

Let’s look at this a little more closely. For example, suppose that the funder is stating that the purpose of the RFP is to receive responses on a project to build a homeless facility in the Bronx. In this instance, the applicants know what the project is as well as their goal in preparing the proposal. In their application, applicants must show why their project will be the best when budget, quality, service and timeliness are concerned. You should remember that the other applicants are also aware of these factors. In these cases, it is sometimes the little things, such as the project visit to the site of the applicant, that make all the difference in the outcome of the decision.

In the second type of RFP, the funder will state that the purpose of the grant is of a more general nature, and gives applicants the opportunity to present their best project or program that will meet the needs of the funder’s parameters. For example, a particular foundation may release a Request for Proposal regarding the provision of housing for the underserved throughout the country. This allows applicants to submit projects they have been planning. The results are usually a wide range of applications. In this instance, you could submit a proposal on providing housing for Section 8 households, or homes for adults with developmental disabilities. You would be correct if you submitted a proposal for homes for pregnant teenagers, or one for homes for abused mothers or fathers and their children.

So, Requests for Proposals tell you a great deal about what the funder is looking for. Next week, we shall look at the main sections a typical Request for Proposal, and then you will begin to understand the necessity of reviewing the document over and over again throughout the grant application process.