If you're seeking a new phone system for your nonprofit, you should clearly define your needs and familiarize yourself with the terminology the phone system industry uses. I wrote a request for proposals (RFP) for a client a couple years ago and they ended up with a phone system that is very robust and they are very happy with it.

I've posted the entire RFP here for you all to use as an example to edit as you see fit. I've removed the client's name so you can juust put in your own details. Please remember this was tailored for the specific needs of my client and you should edit them for your own needs and dates.

SAMPLE RFP


TITLE PAGE

Request for Proposal for Telephone System
Responses Due October 9, 2006
Your company name, full address, contact name here
 
PAGE BREAK

Purpose
The purpose for this Request for Proposal (RFP) is to evaluate business phone system firms which provide custom solutions and might be requested to provide <Your company> with such services.

Vendor(s) selected will be evaluated in part on the ability to deliver products on time and within budget, and their demonstrated understanding of the solution required based on their responses and subsequent interviews.

Background
<Give some background information on your organization here, like when it was started, your target service needs, perhaps a mission statement.>

Services to be Provided
The major components of the project (as identified by <Your company>) are detailed below. Vendors responding should be prepared to provide a solution to the specified areas, and if after review and questions add any additional components deemed necessary to successfully complete the project. 
  • Automated Call Distribution: An Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) is a device that distributes incoming calls to a specific group of phones that operators use. ACD systems are quite often found in companies who handle a lot of incoming phone calls and where the caller has no specific need to talk to a certain person, but wants to talk to a person who is able to talk to him at the earliest opportunity.
  • Automated Attended with integrated Voice Mail: An automated attended (also auto attendant or auto-attendant) system allows callers to be automatically transferred to a user's extension without the intervention of a receptionist. A receptionist, who acts as the telephone operator, can be reached by pressing 0 on most systems.
  • Dial by Name Directory: There is often a 'dial-by-name' directory to find a user on a system.  The dial-by-name directory is usually set up as last name followed by first name. Once the user name is announced, the caller can ring the extension. The correct extension number can be announced prior to transfer for the caller’s future reference.
  • Do Not Disturb: A phone can be set to "do not disturb" to forward all calls directly to voicemail without ringing the extension.
  • Express Messaging: Express messaging is used when a caller does not want to disturb the user, or is calling a guest mailbox without a phone, to immediately leave a message.
  • Message-only information "mailboxes" for business hours, directions, job offerings, and answers to other frequently asked questions. These mailboxes may be forwarded to the receptionist after each message plays, or the user can return to the main menu.
  • The ability to configure multiple extensions to a single voicemail box – operators that may receive calls or people waiting in a queue for the ACD can be routed to a common voicemail box that can be checked by yet another operator that may not have an extension connected to the voicemail box.
  • In-house (<Your company>) managed voicemail, extensions, passwords, phone programming, etc via a PC, GUI interface.
  • Monitoring software to provide data on incoming call volume, response times, un-listened-to voicemail, and more.
  • Flexible main greetings for holiday, inclement weather announcements, and emergency situations.
  • Ability to manage a call tree for multiple languages (English and Spanish).
  • Check voicemail from an outside line.
  • Change voicemail settings from an outside line (like do not disturb, vacation greetings, illness greeting).
  • Call-forwarding to external and internal destinations (including cell phones).
  • Unified Messaging: Ability to selectively route incoming voicemail to Microsoft Exchange mailboxes.
  • Voice Conferencing Technology: The ability to connect to multiple internal and external locations in a conference call structure.
  • Ability to manage multiple T1 connections (planned deployment has qty 2) as well as POTS lines.
  • Implementation of new system to be completed by <insert timeframe or date by which you want the project complete>.
There are approximately 80 phones currently installed at this location. The ability to give dial tone over the Internet to a remote office would be desirable, but not necessary. The proposal should include costs for replacing the handsets currently in use (most are simple hand sets, with approximately 10 higher-function sets) or utilizing them in the new system (they are handsets that work with an old Samsung switch). New wiring for the system may also be appropriate, and the costs for standard drops should be included.

Evaluation Criteria
<Your company> is looking for one company to provide all of the services listed above. Following receipt and review of the proposals by <Your company>, Inc. selected firm(s) may be invited to an interview at <Your company> offices and make on-site presentations of their proposed solution. The decision to interview the respondents will be at <Your company>'s sole discretion based on evaluation of each respondent's proposal. <Your company> reserves the right to reject any and all responses, and to waive any irregularities of information in the evaluation process. The final decision is the sole decision of <Your company> and the respondents to the RFP have no appeal rights or procedures guaranteed to them. The selected firm(s) will be given an opportunity to present their proposal in detail. Those directly responsible for the design of this project will be expected to attend.

Although <Your company> may conduct interviews to select among the final candidates, it is not <Your company>'s intent to seek extensive clarification of the proposals received. Therefore, it is to the benefit of the respondent to provide an explicit, detailed, and complete discussion of the work in the proposal.

The successful firm will be chosen through a qualitative review of these factors. The following criteria will be used to evaluate proposals received:
  1. Companies should possess knowledge, expertise and experience in the planning, project management and execution of the services for which they are responding for.
  2. Experience and past performance.
  3. Capability of proposed solution.
  4. Cost of services provided.
Proposal Preparation and Submission Requirements
The proposal shall clearly address all of the information requested herein. Since the written proposal will weigh heavily in the evaluation process, information submitted should be complete and provide a convincing case that the vendor can perform high quality work within schedule and budget constraints. Proposals should be thorough yet concise. Proposals are to be prepared at your own expense.

The proposal shall be sent to the official contact listed below, to be received no later than Monday, October 9, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Contact Name
Company Name
Full Address

Any questions regarding this RFP must be submitted by e-mail to <company> by 4:00 p.m. October 5, 2006. All questions will be answered promptly. Responses to inquiries that substantially or materially change the RFP will be made available to all prospective vendors that have submitted a formal Letter of Intent.

The proposal shall be organized in the following manner with the subject headings and sequence indicated. 
  1. Introduction
  2. Experience and Past Performance
  3. Organization and Personnel
  4. Proposed Solution(s) - Based on Description of Services
  5. References
  6. Pricing, Hourly Rates and Other Fees
This RFP is available as a MS Word file. Please answer all questions in the format provided.

Selection Process Schedule
The schedule of the selection process is as follows:
  • September 25, 2006 – Release of the RFP
  • October 5, 2006 – Vendor RFP Questions Due
  • October 9, 2006 – RFP Responses Due
  • October 12, 2006 – Invitation to selected firms to attend a meeting of <Your company>’s workgroup and prepare a Scope of Work
  • October 16, 2006 – Scope of Work Due
  • October 19, 2006 – Notification of Selection Results
  • Pre-November 2006 – Contract Start (if appropriate)
Cost of Preparing RFP Response
All costs associated with responding to this RFP are the sole responsibility of the responding company.

Additional Information

Submitted responses to this RFP become the property of <Your company>.  <Your company> reserves the right to use any and all ideas included in any response without incurring any obligations to the responding company or committing to procurement of the proposed services.

Chris Shipley
Nutmeg Consulting