What is an RFP?
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document designed to solicit a proposal from the commercial sector to provide a specific solution in the form of work products against a set of requirements.
An RFP is used where the request requires technical expertise, specialized capability, or where the product or service being requested does not yet exist, and the proposal may require research and development to create whatever is being requested (your specific and/or unique solution to meet the government's requirements). In most cases the RFP presents technical and business management requirements for the service being solicited and may dictate the exact structure and format of the bidder’s response, as well as the process by which all proposals will be evaluated, leading to the selection of a specific vendor. The technical requirement can be in the form of a Statement of Work (SOW), a Performance Work Statement (PWS), or in a Statement of Objectives (SOO). There are subtle differences between these three methods of presenting requirements for bid that you need to understand. The document entitled "A COR’s Guide to Statements of Work, Performance Work Statements, and Statements of Objectives" provides and good understanding of these differences, and can be found under our Other Resources and Useful Links tab.
The format and composition of a Federal Government RFP is mandated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). Government RFPs that are based on the FAR are broken down into sections that are identified by letters A thru M. Sections C, L and M are of major importance as they define the technical/management requirements, the format of your proposal, and the evaluation criteria for selection of a winning bid. However you need to read and understand all of the sections of the RFP to ensure that there are no additional requirements or instructions that can cause you to lose the bid, or that contain penalties for late deliveries after you win the contract.