I was once asked by a community foundation to submit a proposal to conduct an evaluation. I asked how many other consultants he was requesting bids from. “Fifty,” he said. “Fifty?” I replied, stunned. “Five-zero?” “Yes,” he proudly answered. “I pre-screened fifty evaluators and I sent them all the RFP.” This was to conduct a $40,000 evaluation. I politely declined, since my three-year-old could do the math and realize the chances of success were low (I would rather focus resources on clients who seek us out because of reputation or past success working with their organization). Months later I checked in with him. He was exhausted and overwhelmed, and he’d had to postpone other projects he was working on. It turned out he did receive an overwhelming volume of proposals that he had to sort through and vet. Then he’d had to determine finalists and interview them, all before he could make a decision and actually hire someone.
This process probably took him six months from start to finish. The evaluation could have been conducted in that time frame. Consider the time and expense of all that staff time: annual six-figure salary of well-paid evaluation director (plus benefits) + annual salary of decently paid program associate, (plus benefits), divided by 2,080 working hours per year (to determine hourly rate). Now multiply that hourly rate times the hours spent identifying and prequalifying 50 evaluators, preparing and disseminating the RFP, responding to dozens of inquiries, reading 40 proposals, vetting and prioritizing them, conducting due diligence, interviewing, declining 39 of them, and finally hiring one. They probably spent half of the $40,000 project fee just on hiring the evaluator. Meanwhile, other important evaluation projects got sidelined along the way. That is not a position any philanthropy professional should put themselves in. Research your options, ask for recommendations, be choosy upfront, and don’t send out 50 RFPs.
Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2013.