Blindly Sending RFPs

I sometimes receive RFPs from associations actually looking for association management software (which I do not produce). If you’ve ever attended one of my sessions on selecting a new AMS, you know that one of my cardinal rules is that the RFP should go out to no more than five vendors. So when I receive an RFP from an association looking for association management software, I know they haven’t called anyone prior to sending it. This means the association is sending the RFP to anyone and everyone they can identify that might be able to respond. This is a huge mistake.

There are over 100 companies that claim to produce “membership software” of some kind. I personally keep track of over 30 companies providing association management software. Not every one of these companies is going to be a good match for a given association’s needs. In fact, very few are. So if you send an RFP to all 30 (or 100) companies, you’re completely missing the mark with over 90% of them (and wasting everyone’s time).

The solution is actually quite simple (aside from hiring me): Create a “short list” of potential vendors (maybe 8-10) and then call each one before you send the RFP. That’s right, call them. And talk to them. And tell them what you’re looking for. And find out if they’re a good potential match before you send the RFP. This brief investment of time in advance will save you loads of heartache later on.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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