Effective philanthropy is sustained and powered by prudent investment of the assets you are dedicating for philanthropic purposes. A request for proposal (RFP) is a document, often a questionnaire, that lets you compare investment service offerings, performance, fees, and other value-add services. Whether you’re looking for an investment service provider for the first time, planning to change providers, or wanting to evaluate the provider you currently have, conducting a well thought out RFP process can pay dividends in the long run.
The RFP Process
The best RFP-driven searches think about the main goals of the process before starting. Similarly, roles and responsibilities are also agreed upon at the start.
- What are the concerns or requirements you would like an investment management service provider to meet?
- Who will oversee the process?
- Who will have decision-making power?
- How will you handle any potential conflicts of interest that arise?
RFP responses can range from a small handful to several hundred pages depending on the questions you ask and materials you request.
- Have you given investment service providers a reasonable amount of time to respond to your RFP? If you’ve created a page limit, is it reasonable considering the questions asked?
- Have you given decision-makers sufficient time to review the requested materials?
- Have you shared your timeline with all involved, including respondents and decision-makers?
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
As with other RFPs (including those for Impact Investing), you may benefit from reviewing RFPs used by others that have missions and goals similar to yours. Although you can find sample RFPs on a variety of publicly available website, you may consider asking colleagues, peers, and philanthropy-serving organizations if they have a template they can share.
- Can you find inspiration or common needs reflected in existing RFPs rather than creating a new one from scratch?
- Philanthropic consulting: Would you benefit from having access to a philanthropic consultant or advisor that can help with strategic planning, engaging the next generation, building out or refining a giving program, and more?
- Grantmaking administration: Are you looking to alleviate some of the administrative work around distributing grants and donations? This can be as simple as IRS charity checks and fund distribution, or as complex as managing a multi-step grantmaking program?
- Investment policy statement: Can the investment manager provide guidance on creating an investment policy statement?
- Socially responsible investing: Can the investment service provider utilize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in portfolio construction and management?
Mission and Values-Based Alignment
You may be considering providers in a range of geographies and with varying levels of connection to philanthropic knowledge and resources.
- How important is it for your selected provider to engage in the philanthropic and nonprofit fields in ways that align with your mission and geographic focus?
Once you’ve completed the RFP process, reflect on what worked and where there’s room for improvement. You may want to evaluate your current provider by requesting comparative proposals on a regular basis. These reflections might prove helpful in the future.
Another good practice is to share your learnings with peers and colleagues. For more information about philanthropic investment management RFPs, see Bank of America Private Bank’s Complete Guide to the Request for Proposal Process.
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About the Author
Alexandra Scuro is a Philanthropic Strategist with Bank of America Private Bank. As a Philanthropic Strategist, Alexandra works with individuals, families, and foundations, helping to devise and implement strategic plans, to define or refresh giving strategies, and to leverage governance best practices.