How to write a Request For Proposal

This article will help you write a Request For Proposal (Request For Proposal) in clear English. This will enable your target audience to understand it more clearly, submit more relevant proposals, and improve the procurement process.

Download your Request for Proposal template here.
1. Start early

It takes time to write an effective and usable Request For Proposal. If this is your first Request For Proposal, give yourself plenty of time to write, edit, and revise it. It always takes longer than you plan! Rushing through the writing process will do more damage in the long run and possibly result in you having to restart the entire process.

2. Involve grants management staff

If you’re a US grant-applicant, ensure you understand public law 106-107, the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999. This calls for streamlining the grants management process and encourages the use of clear writing techniques.

Find out whether any special review is required. Learn about any requirements that may affect the way you write your Request For Proposal.

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3. Consider getting external help

If you find this new style of writing difficult or time-consuming, then consider getting some assistance. Outside help, such as working with a plain English writer, will help get things moving if you link up early in the process.

Last-minute rewrites tend to be confused, inaccurate and disjointed.

4. Understand Plain English principles
Write your Request For Proposal so that your target audience can digest it in one reading. That should be your goal (or one of your goals). If it takes more than this, then consider rewriting the sections they struggle with.

To improve the readability of your document:

• Identify your target audience
• Define what they want and need to know
• Consider what technical terms they know and, by extension, what needs to be explained either in the main document or in an appendix
• Simplify the format of the Request For Proposal

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5. Review similar Request For Proposals

Before starting, source Request For Proposals that have been written with plain writing techniques When reviewing the Request For Proposal, consider the following:

• Literacy level. How much education will readers need to understand the Request For Proposal? To find out, use the Fog Index on selected sections.

• Clarity. What parts of the Request For Proposal are hard to understand? Are sentences too long or complex? Does it include technical terms that the target audience may not understand?

• Organization. How easy is it to find critical information? Should you reorder the chapters and the sequence in which material is presented?

• Repetition. Is the same information repeated in several sections? If so, delete redundant material.

• Headings. Do headings need to be re-written, perhaps as question headings?

• Format. Do you need to add bullet-point lists, topic sentences or key words in bold?

6. Create a document outline to help readers find needed information.

• Write headings as questions, which each section then answers

• For subsections, use a numbered outline format for the section headings. This helps the reader find the main sections and see the relationship between subsections.

7. Rewrite the Request For Proposal, section by section
If some sections are hard to write clearly, ask colleagues for help. Also, read your paragraphs out loud to see if they are easy to understand.

• Revise each section.

• Do key sections first. Start with the Requirements, Application Content, Evaluation Criteria, and then revise the less critical material.

• Use the same terms throughout the document. Don’t start with Request For Proposal and then change to Request For Tender, or Invitation To Tender. Be consistent.

8. Make several reviews – and revise the document based on feedback

• Start with an internal review that focuses on the content and its clarity.

• Make the required changes.

• Have at least two colleagues review the Request For Proposal. Ask them to identify missing information; ask if they could understand it in one reading.

• Revise again as needed.

• Get the necessary approvals.

9. Format the presentation

Make the document look attractive and easy to read.

• Use different type sizes for headings.

• Leave a blank line between paragraphs.

• Use bulleted lists.

• Highlight main points with bold and italics.

• Use boxes for examples.

• Use white space, including margins of at least one inch all around.

• If feasible, use two columns to increase readability.

10. Get feedback. Share it

• Find out if your Request For Proposal works!

• Ask Review Panel members if the plain writing techniques improved the Request For Proposal.

• Get feedback from personnel who coordinated the review process.

• Find out if plain writing techniques contributed to improved proposal submissions

• Ask proposal bidders if it was easier to reply to the Request For Proposal, and what made the most difference.

• Find out what worked and what needs more work.

• Summarize what you have learned and file it for the next Request For Proposal.

• Share feedback with colleagues.

If possible, prepare metrics that demonstrate the effectiveness of plain writing techniques. Collate these into an informal report and circulate the findings to your colleagues.

This ‘proof’ that such techniques can improve the procurement process may persuade them to consider writing style future Request For Proposals. Make yourself available to discuss what you learned during this process and the benefits they stand to make by adopting such techniques.

Proposal Templates

1. Download your Proposal template here.

2. Download your Proposal Checklists and Forms here

3. Download your Request for Proposal template here.

Download these MS Office and Apple templates today

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