As promised in Part I of this series, this blog points out some clues that might indicate a purportedly open Request For Proposals (RFP) is not so open after all. Sometimes a funding agency has a particular recipient in mind for an award, and writes the RFP to favor that participant in the selection process. Agencies may do this to comply with (and at the same time skirt the intent of) administrative requirements. Agencies may also issue such RFPs to identify any applicants that might provide even better results than the providers they’re currently aware of. Whatever the reasons, RFPs with a foregone recipient in mind are often called “wired proposals,” and if you spot one of them you may be better off not to apply. Here are some indicators to watch out for:
Highly Specific Requirements. I’ve seen technical requirements so tightly defined that they could have been met only by a single organization. A hypothetical example might read something like this: “Applicant must provide the 8 outreach programs listed in Appendix A to 400 underserved youth between the ages of 13 and 15 in a community whose population has fallen below 20,000 within the last two years.” Highly specific requirements are the most common sign of a wired proposal. At times, they take the form of geographic or historical restrictions, e.g., “Applicant must have an office within 20 miles of the assisted living center, and must have a 10-year history of successful engagement with the target population.”
Assumed Knowledge. Esoteric jargon that only insiders would understand, references to existing programs without adequate explanations, requirements mentioned but not fully described...these are all warnings that the funding agency has a specific recipient in mind whose familiarity with the program is taken for granted. If the grant maker has a formal Q&A process, you can word questions carefully so that responses provide additional information about the funding agency’s openness. One example question might read something like, “Page XX of the RFP requires that ex-offenders be provided job search training in weekly, two-hour group sessions. Are alternative schedules acceptable if they meet the end objectives?”
Unrealistic Timeframes. Believe it or not, I once reviewed an RFP with a submission deadline of September 30 and a start date of Oct 1 the same year. Obviously, time for considering more than one proposal was not part of the schedule! This is an extreme case, but short proposal deadlines can be a red flag. The problematic timeframe can be compounded if proposals require lots of supporting paperwork and certifications, thus precluding participation by organizations not already aware of the upcoming opportunity.
We can review an opportunity if you are suspicious about its legitimacy.We’ll take a quick look as part of a free consultation, or we can provide a more thorough review and recommendations with our Opportunity Review service, described in our services list and available on our online store.
Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar