As a technology provider for associations for over 15 years, we've seen quite a few RFPs in our day. Some written well, some not so much. Some with a very clearly articulated purpose, some rambling with little sense of what they are really asking for. And to be honest, these things are not deal-breakers by any stretch.
What is a huge help, however, in the RFP process is to know what your budget is for the website redesign project you're requesting.
Ha! You're saying. Of course, you want the budget so that you can bid right up to the penny and squeeze every dollar out of our organization for the least amount of work. Okay....maybe you're not saying that exactly, but you may still feel it's prudent and a best practice to get the best price from all vendors before sharing your budget. Or maybe even still not sharing the budget at that point.
And we totally understand your reasoning. But...
Here are 5 reasons why it's ultimately a risky, potentially short-sighted concept:
1. You're immediately exhibiting a lack of trust to your future vendor.
Is that really how you want to start a relationship? When we at Vanguard get an RFP with budget included, we say, "These guys will be great clients. They get it." Not including a budget in your RFP is another way of saying to us: "We don't trust you." Or in fairness, "We don't trust you...quite yet."
2. You set yourself up to get the wrong kind of proposals.
Without a budget range included in your RFP, you'll get bids with cost estimates all over the place, which can simply add to the confusion of making a decision and take up way too many staff hours to sift through the mess.
3. You're wasting the vendor's time.
When an RFP comes through with no budget indicated, vendors tend to get very optimistic. "I know they're small, but maybe they have money," they say. Or "With all of this they're asking for in the RFP, they must have money!" It's all vendors focus on: does this prospect have money or not? And in the end, it's a waste of our time. One could argue I suppose that our wasted resources bidding your project turns into higher costs for the next prospect in our pipeline.
4. It keeps your RFP focused.
While some associations have a budget number in mind, the tendency when you know you're not including the actual number on your RFP is to ask for the stars and hope (just maybe!) some vendor will come through with an affordable price for ALL OF IT! Wouldn't that be great!
Note: If the scope of your RFP doesn't match your budget (ask some other associations what they've spent for similar projects, if you're not sure) you're truly misleading the vendor, which isn't respectful for those of us trying to provide an honest price for honest work.
5. Cheaper isn't always better.
You should always be shopping for value over price, investment over expense. Don't think that by keeping your budget a secret you run a better chance of getting lower bids. In fact, be highly suspicious of a relatively lower bid in your pool of prospective vendors. Most likely there is something they don't get about your RFP, or they are in the business of submitting lower prices in an effort to enter a new market.