Your RFPs Are Killing Results

Excel Mess for blog.jpg

I understand. I do. Lots of people and lots of voices want in on your next software or services purchase.

Here’s the problem: you start with some sense of a problem and then everyone who isn’t going to actually be doing the work of effecting change has ideas on how change is effected.

So, committees pull together. Colleagues at other institutions are called. And then long Excel files get baked with dozens - or even hundreds - of feature requests. My favorite is when there is a “critical” column and 98% of the requests are checked.

What’s missing in almost every RFP we see?

Real goals.

No one actually cares if [FEATURE X] is there. What matters is if engagement goes up. And if engagement leads to support and revenue.

Make your potential vendors align to your fundamental business goals. How many more memberships need to be sold this year vs last? How many new donors do you want to see make their first ever gift this year? How many more alumni are you focused on seeing measurable engagement from this year? What kind of event revenue growth do you want to see in the year to come?

Features, frankly, aren’t the reason you’ll reach or not reach those goals. But those goals are what you and your vendors need to be talking about. The long software demos that seek to check all the boxes are, sadly, the winners in many instances - but only contractually.

It isn’t to say that the features don’t deliver. And sometimes you need, for example, to know a vendor has the security chops to protect you and your constituents. It’s just that features should be what supports the mission of raising engagement and support.

Put another way: if a vendor with 4 features increased your total donor count by 20% and another with 40 features delivered a flat year over year performance, which one is the best choice?

Nick Zeckets