Your association has made the decision to move to a new AMS (Association Management Software).  Now comes the fun part – creating the RFP, selecting the prospective vendors and watching the demos.
At NimbleUser we may get five RFPs in a single week. Some great, some lousy and a bunch in-between.  On average, we respond to about half of these for a variety of reasons. There are key elements that must be included to make it worth the time and effort to respond.

Get the Best RFP Response by Doing This:

Here are 7 tips to help you build the best RFP possible and get the highest number of quality responses to choose from:

  1. Do Preliminary Homework. There are lots of AMS vendors in the marketplace (at least 50). With so many vendors to choose from you need to do some preliminary homework to identify your key requirements.  Outline your biggest challenges that the new AMS will address.  Determine what functional area of the organization will need to access the new AMS.  Select your core team that will evaluate the options. Determine timeline and high-level budget for the project.
  2. Send RFI First.  Narrow prospective AMS Vendors by doing an RFI before the RFP.  The RFI (Request For Information) asks the high level / basic questions: high level capabilities, vendor strengths, and typical budget. It is fair to send an RFI to a large number of prospective AMS vendors.  They are relatively easy to respond to and most vendors will respond (we generally always respond to an RFI).  
  3. 3 Vendors or Less.  Use the RFI to narrow the list of prospective vendors to 3 or less. RFPs sent to more than 3 vendors will dramatically reduce the the quantity and quality of the responses.   Most top tier vendors (including NimbleUser) will likely not respond if the number is greater than this.  
  4. Set Realistic Time Frame for RFP Response. Give enough time for the vendors to respond.  We often get a 50 page or longer RFP and are asked to give a response in two weeks.  4-6 weeks is really needed to adequately turnaround an RFP. Expect vendors to ask questions during this timeframe.
  5. Set Realistic Time Frame for Project Start.  Good solution providers have a backlog (beware of the ones without) and great ones have an even bigger backlog.  The correct solution is more important than how quickly the implementation can start. Give consideration to your internal constraints as well – vacations, holidays, and your own organization events may impact the best time for adopting a new system. Be flexible.  
  6. Be Transparent.  The more transparency, the better.  Be clear how many vendors have been sent the RFP, who they are, what the budget is, and your key evaluation criteria for selecting a new system. These factors help vendors to quickly identify if they would be a good fit for this specific project
  7. Use a Consultant.  An experienced AMS selection consultant can lead the creation of the RFP and refine and document what the goals of the new system are.  They are familiar with all of the AMS systems and can narrow the list to the systems what will meet your needs and budget.  Also consider having the consultant have a role beyond the selection – some of our most successful implementations have the selection consultant as part of the implementation team.  ​

4 Things Nobody Tells You About the RFP Process

  1. It is a Ton of Work.  Responding to an RFP is incredibly time consuming. We typically spend 40 to upwards of 100 hours to do an RFP response. Sales, Engineering and Implementation input is required to thoroughly research and respond.   
  2. Inspire Us.  We love to be inspired and challenged. We sometimes see an RFP where it is clear that the association is in a race for relevance and is seeking to up its game and innovate.  We bend over backwards to work with those organizations.
  3. It Takes Two.  While you are selecting a vendor we are selecting a customer. Here are some red flags that can cause a vendor to decline to respond:
    1. Poorly written RFP
    2. Lack of clarity of goals and objectives
    3. Lack of transparency
    4. Lack of timely responses
    5. Disengaged / difficult interactions with staff

      On the flip side, happy, transparent, proactive people who are engaged get us excited, happy and engaged.  

  4. We Don’t Want to be Your “Vendor”.  A vendor implies we just sell stuff:
​We want to be your Partner.  A partner is part of your journey and works together with you to achieve your goals

About Nimble AMS

Nimble AMS is an enterprise class association management system (AMS) built on the Salesforce Platform, the world’s leading and most innovative customer relationship management (CRM) system.  Contact us to learn more.