Periodically undertaking competitive procurements is a Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) best practice. It helps ensure an agency is knowledgeable about products and services that address its needs, and which may increase efficiencies, and advises which companies offer such services. Additionally, it helps ensure that an agency obtains needed services at a competitive cost, promoting fairness in the market. Providers are more likely to participate in a fair process, and citizens and interested parties appreciate an agency’s fiduciary oversight of their monies.
In creating request for proposals (RFPs), public agencies benefit from a wide availability of tools and resources that guide the formal process. These can include GFOA RFP templates and best practices, online community forums or information sharing sites, their colleagues’ existing RFPs and checklists, among other tools.
Below are some practical tips to help you focus your searches on your needs and to encourage a broader response with more meaningful proposals.
- Understand exactly what you seek. Do a little pre-RFP research to define the scope of the service and end goal. For example, are you looking for the lowest cost or the best value? Are you looking for one vendor to provide all services?
- Start with a template, but know it is just a starting point. The GFOA cautions public agencies in using templates or another public agency’s RFP because everyone’s needs are unique. Do not get caught up in descriptions or requirements that are not applicable to your agency, and proofread the document to ensure there are no references to the “original” entity or contradictions in the RFP.
- Consider your requirements–exactly what you need in the deliverable. Often included in RFPs are items required by an agency. These may include compliance with ethics rules, term of agreement, errors and omissions, insurance requirements or minimums, and compliance with entity specific regulations. We suggest considering your own requirements, providing a copy of your investment policy, and detailing your collateral requirements.
- Request the appropriate documentation of financial strength. What financial information is truly important for your analysis? You may want to consider the financial ratios and size of the institution. Is it important that the institution is rated?
- Is insurance coverage required? If so, how much insurance coverage does your entity require? Is the minimum requirement realistic, or are you disqualifying firms that may otherwise be a good fit?
- Provide appropriate background information on your agency. Include information that is important for bidders to understand, such as details on the type and size of the organization, your current account structure and processes, average balances, activity volumes, services used, and collateral requirements.
- Consider whether having a history with public agencies is important. If it is important for your partners to have industry experience, this factor will influence your strategy. Be sure to request background on the firm, including details regarding experience in the market and references.
- Determine the value of a local service provider. Consider the rationale behind the requirement for a local office or presence. You can request examples of local community support and reinvestment.
- Provide clear direction on response requirements. Determine and communicate exactly what you need from the respondents in their proposals and consider limiting the response length. Try to avoid gathering unnecessary information or missing necessary answers. You can plan a pre-response Q&A to answer any respondent questions ahead of time.
- Present a reasonable timeline and set milestones along the way. Allow adequate time for bidders to respond and for agencies to evaluate the proposals. Proofread the documents to ensure information is consistent throughout the proposal. We also recommend confirming your transition timeline and requesting a detailed implementation schedule.
- Provide a numbered questionnaire and fillable forms for required exhibits. Having these details make it easier for respondents to ask questions and respond. If the request includes a cost proposal form, include this in Excel format and, as part of the cost proposal, ask for services that are used, as well as average volumes. This will help ensure the evaluation process is “apples to apples.”
- Avoid open-ended or vague questions and asking the same question multiple times. Asking the same question in various ways does not provide the agency with a deeper understanding, frustrates the respondents, and distracts their efforts to provide valuable information. It also makes comparing respondents’ answers more challenging for you.
- Consider including an opportunity for vendors to provide information on additional services. This allows bidders to address issues and provide information on new or value-add solutions you may not have specifically requested.
- Determine and communicate how the responses will be evaluated. Provide a scoring matrix summary that defines how the criteria is weighted (qualifications of the proposer, quality of the approach, implementation schedule, fees, rates, etc.).
Although the process can seem like a large undertaking, these ideas will ensure your agency is receiving the best tools and the most technologically relevant services at the best price.
For more information, or to see what our Wintrust Government Funds team can do for your institution, visit wintrust.com/govfunds.