Timelines and an Advocacy RFP Template

Photo of timeline with steps

Make Sure to Include a Timeline in Your Advocacy RFP Template

Using an advocacy RFP template can help streamline the process of hiring the right partner for your next project. The exercise of filling out the template should help you identify your goals, any constraints on the project, and strengths and weaknesses in your organization that you’ll need to be aware of to get your project out the door. One critical area to think through at the outset is your timeline. It’s common for advocacy organizations to need a lot of time to work through the RFP process and get approvals from all of the stakeholders involved. This longer timeframe can stem from the need to get any project past a series of internal checks and balances, juggling the schedules of busy board members, or a number of other roadblocks.  

Why do I need a timeline?

A timeline may seem like an obvious thing to have in an advocacy RFP template but it’s critical to the success of any program. Advocacy organizations, especially the larger ones, often need to get approval from multiple stakeholders before they can move forward with a project. If you don’t take all of those approvals into account, your project can easily drag on longer than it should, which can lead to unhappy board members or funders. You’ll also want to consider when the staff who will be working on the project are available to focus on your RFP process and the program after it launches. There are a lot of potential roadblocks that can set back your RFP process. Our advocacy RFP template timeline below walks you through the potential bumps in the road to help you choose a vendor in time to get your program launched by the right date.  

Where do I start? 

First, determine the date you want your project to launch. Then, you can work backwards to figure out when other items need to be completed to make that launch date. If you’re not sure how to identify when you want your program to begin, you can start by identifying any times when you want to make sure your project is running vs. not running. Legislative sessions, election dates, national holidays, and points in the year where staff will be less available are good places to start. For example, you may have a project that you want to have live by the time a legislative session starts in early January. Since many of your staff are likely to be away for winter holidays, it would be wise to plan to have the RFP process completed and a vendor chosen before the end of December. 

Questions to ask yourself

Once you have a start date, you’ll need to figure out how long it will take you to be ready for that day. You’ll want to identify factors unique to your organization that may delay the phases of your timeline or may require you to meet key milestones to avoid such delays. Here are some important questions to ask yourself: 

  • What is your internal budgetary process? How long does it take for new requests to move through that system and are you required to make requests within a specific timeframe (when does your organization’s fiscal year end/begin)? 
  • Do you have calendar conflicts that may draw resources or attention away from this project? For example: end of year fundraising, annual staff retreats, lobby days to prepare for, staff leaving or new staff onboarding, etc.
  • What is your contracting process and how long does it typically take to get a contract signed? 
  • Do you need board approval? If so, when does your board meet? 

The phases of an advocacy RFP template timeline

Next, use the phased approach outlined below to map the estimated time you expect each part of the process to take for your organization, given potential delays or the need to expedite a phase: 

➔    Phase 1: RFP creation and internal buy in/approval: estimated 2–6 weeks 

➔    Phase 2: Identify a list of vendors to ask to bid on the project: estimated 2–3 weeks

➔    Phase 3: Invite vendors to bid: estimated 2–4 weeks (Hot tip: it is often helpful to ask vendors to confirm their interest to ensure that you have reached enough potential bidders)

➔    Phase 4: Internal review of proposals to select to your top choices: estimated 2–3 weeks

➔    Phase 5: Invitation to present: estimated 2–3 weeks

➔    Phase 6: Narrow to finalists, resolve outstanding questions through Q&A process or secondary presentation, and call reference checks: estimated 2–3 weeks

➔    Phase 7: Identify your first-choice vendor and announce your decision: estimated 1–3 weeks

➔    Phase 8: Legal review and signature: estimated 2–6 weeks (Hot tip: requesting standard terms and conditions from vendors in phase 1 or 5 may provide insight into how to expedite this phase within your organization). 

Consider the estimated timeline for each phase and adjust it to make sure it reflects how long things in your organization actually take. It’s always a good idea to have buffers built in to accommodate any unforeseen delays. Once you have identified how long each RFP phase will take, add up the total amount of time the RFP process is likely to span and subtract that from your desired launch date. That will bring you to the date your RFP process should begin.

Finally, communicate and ensure that all stakeholders agree to adhere to this timeline. It is often helpful to pre-schedule check-ins near the end date of each phase to avoid unnecessary delays. 

A realistic timeline is critical to getting everyone on your team on the same page and setting the right expectations for board members and funders. It will provide you and your team with a roadmap for the RFP process and it can highlight important goalposts like approvals or signatures for the senior members of your organization. In addition to helping to organize your team, it’s also beneficial to let those senior members know when you’ll need their buy-in so they can make room on their busy schedules. 

Once you’ve gotten your RFP timeline nailed down, you’ll have to actually create it. Check out our blog on the top seven mistakes we often see on RFPs to make sure you’re picking the right vendor for your project. Have questions about our  advocacy RFP Template? drop us a note.