How to plan an effective request for proposal (RFP)

Is your organization thinking about purchasing new technology, but not quite sure where to start? You’re not alone! Many associations struggle to take the first step in planning an effective request for proposal (RFP) when attempting to get their board on board for new tech plans and in becoming the catalyst of change for their organization.  

Modern technology is a crucial investment for any organization, but professional and trade associations might hesitate to adopt new technology because of the sticker price. Among some leaders who haven’t bought a new AMS in two decades, the price of innovative association management software (AMS) is viewed as prohibitive. In reality, the expense of not investing in modern technology will cost your organization much more.  

Legacy association management software will cost you in product upgrades and complex customizations. You run the risk of losing staff who are fed up with slow technology and broken processes. Members also care about the state of your technology, and if it negatively impacts their member experience they might lapse. Because members use innovative online platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn every day, they expect a similar technological experience from their association.

Three steps to prepare your association to buy a modern AMS and plan your RFP 

You can easily remedy the aforementioned hurdles by purchasing a modern AMS. Providing a user-friendly tech experience with automated procedures will boost staff happiness. Offering a personalized digital experience for members where they can easily network will increase member engagement. 

Here’s how to get started planning your RFP to purchase a modern AMS in three simple steps: 

1. Identify why you need new tech. Before you begin your RFP, you’ll need to consider why your association needs to purchase a new AMS. Are you experiencing increased friction in staff processes or are you looking to elevate the member experience? Both younger members and staff will appreciate advanced AMS solutions. “No question with the younger generation, if you don’t have good tech, they’ll leave. Technology investment is a requirement now,” says Wes Trochlil, President of Effective Database Management. 

Modern technology can provide an excellent solution to most sources of organizational friction by decreasing your expenses and saving your staff’s time. You’ll want to begin by outlining each of your association’s pain points. Next, you can refine your search for a software solution that targets each critical business issue.

2. Work with your board for budget approval. Go to your board with a realistic technology budget in mind and explain why it’s necessary. Understand there is no “one budget fits all associations” rule to live by. “While benchmarking is an understandable impulse, it’s often useless,” says Wes. “Your needs versus that of another similar organization can be very different. I’ve seen three-staff, $1M budget organizations spend more on their technology than a 15-staff, $5M organization.”   

Best practice calls to identify your digital needs and allow that to drive the budget, rather than an arbitrary benchmark number. If your board struggles with the budget you’ve selected, help them to gain perspective on the importance of choosing the right AMS by connecting it to ROI.  Explain you’ll lose members and staff if you make the wrong technological choices. 

If your board requires further proof to approve your requested budget, get your technology team or board subcommittee involved in the review process to provide additional reporting. Additionally, many tech vendors are willing to work with customers, offering personalized demos that address specific concerns or questions. Sometimes simply seeing the capability of software is the missing link an association needs to get board approval. 

3. Determine staff skills and resources for the RFP. Ask yourself if realistically drafting the RFP can be an internal project or if you should hire outside help. Understand that the process of researching AMS technology is daunting and that your staff might not have the bandwidth to dedicate to the operation. Though it’s a large task, try to identify how your organization should be working to meet the needs of today’s members, rather than continuing outdated technological processes.

While hiring a consultant is an extra step, they will offer invaluable expertise on associations and the current digital landscape. A consultant is prepared to help navigate your association through the process of determining what you need in an AMS. Take time to consider what’s best for your association’s RFP process—assembling an internal team or hiring a consultant—then get to work. 

Learn more

With these three considerations in mind, you can begin planning your RFP. If you still have questions about how to plan your RFP to purchase a modern AMS, check out our guide today: 7 questions to ask before purchasing new association management software.


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