After working through a detailed process to upgrade the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, I made sure to document the steps in hopes of streamlining the process for other nonprofits. Here are my thoughts on best practices, including helpful tips, a Request for Quotes (RFQ) template, a bid/vendor tracking spreadsheet template and over 200 qualified nonprofit website vendor contact emails.
Step 1. Interview everyone in the .org, from the CEO to the maintenance folks, and ask them what they like and don't like about the current website.
Step 2. Start a shared Request for Quote or Request for Proposal (RFP). Keep in mind a Request for Quote is typically more detailed so the vendor understands what you want, and needs only to provide a bid, where a Request for Proposal is more general because your looking for their ideas and bid. Here is a sample RFQ template in MS Word .docx format you can use as a starting point. Simple add, change or delete sections as relevant to your nonprofit website upgrade project.
Step 3. Finalize the shared draft RFQ with stakeholders, and ask for their FINAL feedback and approval. Also share the draft RFQ email cover letter final feedback and approval Make sure the following are very clear:
The date bids are due.
Who to reply to if vendors have questions, including name, email and a cell number if texted questions are ok.
Step 4. Send the final RFQ to potential vendors. You can use the verified and valid email addresses in the sample bid tracking file to start. Simply cut and paste approx. 50 emails from column 2 into the BCC field of your draft email. Again it's best this email be FROM the person best suited to answer vendor bidding questions. Then send another 50 until all are sent. Then fix and resend bounced emails. Make sure to update the bid tracking file with the date sent and the "source" of the email address (i.e. NCCNP).
Step 5. Share the bid tracking file with the stakeholders in read only mode, so they can see the progress while maintaining the integrity of the tracking data.
Step 6. After the bidding deadline is reached, schedule online vendor intro meetings with your top 5 vendors. Create a shared document with the critical questions you want to compare between vendors. Keep an open mind as my experience has been the vendor folks think is the best is typically NOT chosen.
Step 7. Let the losing vendors know you are leaning towards the winning vendor, so they can provide last chance feedback.
Step 8. Send the winning vendor's contract docs to stakeholders, top management, legal, etc. for final approval. Make sure start dates, milestone dates, rollout dates and final checkoff dates are well before final payment dates.
Step 9. Once the winning vendor is signed, present potential in-kind request, cost saving suggestions or other win-win ideas. In exchange for a discount, you could present them as your featured website vendor on your website or newsletter. Other ideas include providing the vendor in any benefits your .org might provide, or promising an awesome testimonial. It never hurts to ask.