Mastering the RFP Process: Your Guide and Sample RFP Template

Table of Contents

What is an RFP?

Often, the first step in selecting a vendor for an election project is distributing a request for proposal (RFP). A well-crafted RFP template is designed to elicit meaningful responses within a defined time frame and in a prescribed format. This approach allows your organization to compare election partners side by side.

This guide explores the intricacies of the RFP process, providing you with a detailed sample RFP template to set you on the path to success.

Creating Your RFP Template

Building Blocks of an Effective RFP: A Template for Success

When selecting the right vendor for your election project, a well-structured RFP is the foundation for success. Below are 12 subjects you will want to cover in your request for proposal template.

View a Sample RFP Template

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1. Background, Goals, &  Expectations

The RFP process starts with introducing your organization and clearly outlining your election goals. This section of the RFP template should summarize your organization’s history, mission, and membership size. When detailing your election expectations, articulate your goals clearly. Examples of these goals may involve:

Sample RFP template for “Background, Goals, & Expectations”:

The ACME Association

Founded in 1900, the ACME Association is an international nonprofit educational association and the worldwide authority on ACME practices. We support research on ACME processes, applications, and procedures and disseminate the most up-to-date information on ACME practices to our members. 

Who We Are

Founded by 15 original members over 100 years ago, the ACME association now has nearly 100,000 members in 30 countries. The ACME Association brings together a diverse group of professionals from different industries. Our members are uniquely connected by their desire to effectively implement ACME practices.

ACME Association members are all in pursuit of achieving a common goal—the utilization
of proper ACME practices to educate and improve society.
The ACME Association strives to:
• Be the leading voice of ACME practices and an authoritative source of ACME
information for the advancement and benefit of humanity.
• Provide effective programs in support of the ACME community and the conduct
of ACME practices.
• Collaborate with other national organizations for the advancement of related
practices and education.
• Cooperate with other societies to promote ACME activities and support
ACME events worldwide.
• Promote an active, engaged and diverse membership.
• Support ACME chapters, sections and subgroups.  

2. Vendor Minimum Requirements

Ensure you identify the deliverables of your election project. What exactly do you want the vendor to include in their proposal? For a vendor to be deemed a viable partner, the company must display a minimum number of deliverable services to be considered for the election project. Include specific examples of the services you require in your RFP template, and make sure that the requirements match your organization’s bylaws.

3. Election Development Timing

State the timeframe you have allotted for the development involved in the election process. Ask the vendor to provide an estimate of the time they require to develop the election. If you plan to open your election in 30 days, you will want to know if the vendor needs six weeks to complete the project.

4. Election Slate & Timing

Including details such as the anticipated election date and key project milestones is critical. This information aids potential vendors in better understanding the scope and timing of the project, particularly regarding the number of offices and issues on the ballot. In this section of your RFP template, you will also want to specify whether your organization plans to implement ranked choice voting or weight voting in your election.

Sample RFP template for “Election Slate & Timing”:

Election Details

2024 ACME Election Dates:

Voter Database Available: April 1, 2024

Open: May 1, 2024 – 12:00pm CST

Close: June 1, 2024 – 12:00am CST

In the past, the ACME Association has hosted all election through the ACME website and processed the elections through our internal database. We are seeking an outside vendor to assist with our online election efforts.

Members are allowed to vote for one candidate in each category. They are not required to vote for all categories. Immediately after a member has voted, they receive a confirmation of their selected candidates and make a final submission. No changes are allowed after the final submission.

The following are examples of ACME Association voting categories:

Positions Available

  1. President-Elect (1)
  2. Board Member At-Large (1)
  3. ACME Association Board Member (1)

Committee Members

  1. Nomination Committee (1)
  2. ACME Performance Committee (3)
  3. Education Committee (2)
  4. Finance Committee (3)
  5. Membership Committee (2)

5. Member Database

Next in your RFP template, provide an overview of your member database setup and communicate any potential assistance required from the vendor in transferring your data. Indicate any unique considerations, ensuring the vendor understands the scope and nuances of the data transfer process. This transparency fosters a collaborative and effective partnership in managing your election.

6. Ballot Types

Specify the preferred election format: whether it’s a web, paper, phone, in-person, or a combination (involving multiple voting methods) election process. Clearly outline the vendor’s responsibilities in creating, printing, and hosting election materials.

If paper elements are part of the process, ensure to detail print quantities and express preferences for the ballot package, including ballot size, color, envelope specifications, and priorities for supplementary material likes biography booklets, postcards, or special letters. This detailed clarification ensures that the vendor is fully aware of your expectations and requirements for the election materials.

three icons with the words ballot size and color envelope specifications and supplementary materials

7. Review Process

Your organization should undertake a comprehensive review of both ballot and candidate information before finalization. Communicate your expectation for a “mock vote” or trial run of the election process, emphasizing its importance in validating the accuracy and usability of your voting system. This step is crucial to guarantee that the election procedures align with your organizational standards and that members experience a seamless and effective voting process. Highlighting the significance of this review safeguards the integrity of the election and ensures that any potential issues are addressed proactively.

8. Technological Requirements 

Your RFP template should clearly outline the compatibility and accessibility specifications for the voting technology you require. For example, provide details about specific requirements such as Section 508 compliance for accessibility standards or ensuring mobile compatibility for online voting. Identify the key security and backup components you expect from the vendor’s election system. 

9. Promoting Your Election

Specify the number and nature of election reminders you desire if you wish the election vendor to create or distribute them. The success of your election hinges on visibility, and without proper promotion and reminders, it may go unnoticed. Therefore, it is essential to have a well-detailed election promotion plan in place.

10. Additional Services to Increase Voter Participation

Invite potential vendors to propose additional services to enhance your election project, such as QR codes for easy ballot access, SSO for secure authorization, and text message voting reminders. More additional services include:

a graphic showing different types of data analytics

11. Customer Service & Voter Support

Part of the RFP process that you do not want to miss is including the level of customer service you expect the election vendor to provide. Explain how you require the vendor to handle voter support, including the hours and channels they provide. In addition, ask the vendor to identify the project team, including each team member’s name, job title, and function. Inform the prospective vendors that you will require training as a new customer and ongoing training if you are a returning customer.

12. Election Results & Reporting

Inquire about the average time between voting and the posting of election results. Ask the vendor to provide a minimum and maximum election result preparation time frame. 

Define the exact format and data you require for reporting, as well as what type of preliminary counts will be needed and their frequency. Include any request breakdowns or summaries you expect the vendor to provide in the final election information.

Submission Protocols: Directing Vendors in the RFP Process

Define the criteria for vendor responses by setting a deadline and providing detailed instructions for RFP submission. This segment should include the following:

  • Submission instructions specifying where to send the proposal.
  • Proposal due date.
  • Preferred communication channels for vendor queries (email, phone, conference call, etc.).
  • Submission methods, indicating whether electronically or in hard copy (clarify the number of hard copies). 
  • Maximum length of proposal.

Anticipated response timeframe and next steps in the evaluation process.

General Questions to Include in Your RFP Template

In the “General Questions” segment of your request for proposal template, pose open-ended inquiries to potential vendors regarding their company, services, and overall approach to election projects. Request essential details about their company, including:

  • Overall philosophy of election management services.
  • Duration of their business operations.
  • Markets served by the vendor.
  • Key company leaders, election project staff, and total employee count.
  • Number of election services clients.
  • Previous experience in administering third-party elections.
  • A minimum of three customer references, with at least one at the executive level.
  • Techniques and approaches implemented to enhance elections and maximize voter participation.

This section prompts potential vendors to articulate their plans for meeting your overall objectives and deliverables. Encourage strategic thinking, an understanding of your organization, and a creative approach to achieving your election goals.

Sample RFP template for “General Questions”:

RFP General Questions
  1. Briefly discuss your company’s history. (or attach a brochure/booklet about your company)
  2. Do you specialize in a particular market (i.e. associations, unions, cooperatives, clubs, HOAs, etc.)?
  3. How many elections do you host per year? How many customers do those elections represent?
  4. What is the average time your company requires to post a customer’s complete election information? Do you have minimum and maximum election preparation periods? If so, please provide details of the time frames.
  5. If your company uses a template, describe the number and type of election ballot formats. If ballots can be customized, please describe the available options.
  6. Describe the customer service team for our account. Please include the following information:
    1. The name of each team member, their job title, and a brief description of their role on the team.
    2. The length of time each team member has worked for your company. 
    3. The team member who would serve as our primary contact.
  7. Discuss the training process for new customers and the ongoing training you provide for current customers. 
  8. How are customer files delivered to you?
  9. Can you please disclose any potential conflicts of interest that your organization may have in relation to providing election services?
  10. Please provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of three current customers whom we may contact as references. 

Ballot Samples From Potential Vendors

Request sample materials from prospective vendors that are similar to the project you are looking to run.
  • If your election includes paper elements, ask to see a paper ballot with a similar slate.
  • If you are using an online voting system, ask for a demonstration of the electronic balloting.
  • Ask for samples of any other communication the vendor will distribute for your election: reminder postcards, emails, booklets with biographies, etc.

The Cost of a Third-Party Managing Your Election

The details provided in the requirements section of the RFP template should clearly outline the election and all components needed to fulfill your project requirements. From this information, your potential vendors should be able to provide transparent, concise pricing for services that will be rendered.

In this section, explain payment terms, schedules, and billing requirements. Make it clear if professional liability insurance is required for vendors. Defining costs will help with budget planning and assist your accounting team when it becomes time to submit payment for the election services provided.

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Rights Reserved in Your RFP Process

In the RFP template, specify your authority to decline any or all offers and terminate the RFP process without incurring obligations or liabilities to potential vendors. Clearly communicate to all prospective vendors that you will oversee the RFP process in a manner aligning with your organization’s needs. Emphasize your right to: 

  • Choose your election contract based on initial offers, without engaging in discussions or requesting best or final offers. 
  • Grant multiple contracts, recognizing that more than one vendor may contribute to the success of your election project. 
  • Express a preference for a vendor that qualifies as a small business, minority-owned, or female-owned.

Sample RFP template for “Pricing”, “Additional Services”, and “Rights Reserved”:


Provide cost estimates based on specifications above for an online/web election. 

List of Additional Services

If your company offers additional optional services, briefly describe the services and provide a pricing estimate for each service.

Rights Reserved

The ACME Association reserves the right to:

  • Reject any or all offers from potential vendors.
  • Discontinue the RFP process without obligation or liability to any potential vendor. 
  • Accept any offer, including higher-priced offers.
  • Award a contract on the basis of initial offers received, without discussing or requesting best or final offers.

Please list the dates and times during the week of [date] when a member of your organization would be available to respond from our selection committee. The ACME office is open from [time].

Thank you for your application.

Send Your RFP off for Review!

After concluding the outlined steps and finalizing the RFP template, choose the vendors you wish to involve in the evaluation process and begin your search. Elections are pivotal to the healthy governance of your organization, providing members with a prime platform to express opinions and shape the organization’s future. 

Voting empowers members to elect leaders who will steer the organization and endorse or dismiss new policies and bylaws. A meticulously planned, transparent, and comprehensive RFP template serves as a tool to pinpoint the suitable partner for your election, enabling you to achieve your specific election objectives.

Maximizing Your RFP Success

Sending a clear, comprehensive request for proposal template can ensure that your organization gets the most helpful information to make a final decision. The ability to directly compare vendors can save you from guesswork or additional effort in asking follow-up questions.

Although an RFP template should provide the prospective vendor with the information they need to submit a proposal, it is always beneficial to get on a call so you can get to know them and see a demonstration of how a voting project might look. If you have any questions about your RFP process or would like to speak with SBS about your election, don’t hesitate to contact us!