How to write requests for information (RFI)

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RFIs, RFPs, RFQs: we know, it’s an acronym overload. But for many agencies, documents like these are core to their sales and operations processes. 

Like it or not, the “RFs” are a part of how business gets done. But all this alphabet soup can get a little nebulous. If you aren’t working with them every day (and maybe even if you are), it’s easy to lose track of what each document is there for. 

What exactly is an RFI, and when should your agency use one?

Below, we’ll show you what an RFI is, when and why agencies use them, what goes into a strong RFI, plus tips for improving your response rate (and the quality of those responses).

What is a request for information (RFI)?

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A request for information is a formal document (usually electronic) that an organization sends to others for the purpose of gathering information, usually about goods or services the organization needs. 

A good RFI document is clear and concise, not as detail-heavy or in-depth as a request for quotation (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP), which come later in the process.

The most common use is between a company and suppliers or vendors. For example:

  • A company in the construction industry is in need of a new type of complex building product that might send out an RFI to multiple potential suppliers to learn who can provide what and at what price points.

  • A business needing new industry software might send an RFI to multiple software vendors (and/or developers) to identify which solutions are worth pursuing in greater detail.

However, RFIs aren’t limited to this direction or orientation. An agency might send an RFI to a client or a subcontractor, depending on what type of information the agency is seeking.

Why do agencies use requests for information (RFIs)? 

Agencies may use RFIs in similar ways to other businesses, sending them out to gather information on major internal IT upgrades or to narrow down a list of potential vendors (designers, copywriters, etc.).

In any situation where an agency doesn’t have the information necessary to move forward with work (or with one of the other RFs, like a request for proposal or request for quote), an RFI might be the right first step. It’s a relatively simple document that doesn’t require a ton of investment from the recipients and can provide your agency with that crucial information or context you need to move forward.

In a project context within an agency, either the project sponsor or project manager would most likely prepare and send the RFI.

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Key components to include in a request for information

No matter who you’re sending an RFI to or why, you want to give yourself the best chance possible to get all the information you need. RFIs don’t need to be complicated and shouldn’t be long, but they should usually contain at least these seven key components.

Contact information

First, make sure to include contact information for both parties involved (in other words, the requestor and the vendor, supplier, or other recipient).

Why? Because even in our increasingly digital-first age, there’s a better-than-zero chance that your RFI gets printed out and set on a desk somewhere in the world. Once it’s detached from its digital footprint, without an address it may as well be scrap paper. 

Project details

Next up is whatever details you have on the project — even if there aren’t many at this stage. 

Bear in mind that one reason for sending out an RFI is that you don’t have the details you need yet, so it’s OK if this section seems a little lacking. 

But by this point, you do know at least some things, so be sure to include what you can. 

Elements to consider:

  • What the project is 

  • Who is it for 

  • Who will be engaging with the final product 

Some RFIs seek bids from vendors (for example, an RFI gathering information on new software options for your agency). For this subcategory of RFI, including the right level of project detail is essential to getting back a more complete, more accurate bid.


Scope at this stage isn’t as formal or as detailed as it will be later in the project planning phase. Here, we’re talking mostly about a “definition of done” — what the future end state should look like once the project is complete.

Also in this section, you should indicate any time limitations (for example, if you need the new IT assets up and running within a calendar or budget year, or if you need the creative materials you’re subcontracting out completed within six weeks). Whatever information you have on any concrete deliverables, include that here as well.

One way to carefully outline scope for RFIs — especially if you frequently issue similar ones with the same sorts of information — is to rely on a template. For the sorts of creative projects common among agencies, this creative request template could be the perfect fit.

Requirements and deliverables

You’ll also want to include basic information about what you require from service providers before you can start work (so you don’t get into a situation where you’ve selected a vendor from your shortlist only to see the project grind to a halt because of a misunderstanding). 

Also in this section of the request for information, describe in greater detail the deliverables involved, providing any additional information you have. 

This section is all about getting better answers from every respondent so you can streamline the selection process and make a more informed decision. 

Evaluation criteria

The people receiving your RFI need to know how their RFI responses will be judged. This section is where you tell them what you’re looking for in an answer. 

This is most important for RFIs that end with you selecting a vendor or supplier and awarding a contract. If that’s not the direct next step, you might include here a “what’s in it for them” kind of statement — why they should take the time to reply.

Project timeline 

Indicate as much as you can about the project timeline, including milestones and dependencies if they’re relevant to the vendor. You’ll want to be clear about all of the deadlines throughout the process: if the vendor won’t have the right amount of capacity at the right times, both you and they want to know that now. 

4 tips for effective requests for information (RFI)

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To take your RFIs beyond basic facts and make them truly effective, follow these four tips.

1. Give specific requirements

The more specific you can get in terms of what you need, the better your chances of getting specific, on-target responses. Tell the vendor exactly what you’ll need to make a fair assessment of their skills and what they can bring to the project. 

If you don’t, the actual-best vendor could return a not-the-best response because they guessed wrong about what you wanted to see. The result? You both miss out on the best possible outcome.

2. Use clear formatting

RFIs don’t need to be complicated — but they absolutely must be clear. Good formatting is a big part of clarity because it makes finding the right information easier.

This is another strong reason to rely on templates for your RFIs: with formatting and order set and standardized, you’re free to focus on getting the details right without worrying that you're getting the formatting wrong.

3. Include background information and resources

The more complex your project needs, the more detail you’re likely hoping to get. 

Well, sometimes you’ve got to give a little more to get a little more, and this is one of those times. 

Think through what kind of background information and resources your recipients might need to give you the best response. What are the details that you know implicitly but that aren’t actually written down anywhere? What unwritten lessons did you learn from last time? This kind of information (or the lack thereof) can substantially change the quality of the responses you get.

4. Set clear and realistic expectations

Even though RFIs are simpler than RFQs and RFPs, you’re still asking recipients to put some work into a response. (In some cases, they’re going to respond with a full quote anyway.) 

You don’t want to get strung along for weeks or months, but on the opposite side of that coin, your vendors and suppliers don’t want to (and may simply refuse to) move heaven and earth to get you an answer on an unrealistic timetable.

So be clear about your expectations in the RFI, giving concrete dates for when you need responses and when you’ll take the next steps. But keep those dates reasonable and realistic so that vendors don’t route your RFI to the circular file.

Plan your RFI process with

Building effective RFI documents takes attention to detail, the right information, and an effective presentation of that information. Ironically even putting together a request for information requires first gathering information and then presenting that information in an effective, attractive way. is an all-in-one project management and operations software that’s perfect for planning and creating your RFIs — and the processes you need to follow to do so. With a wide library of templates (including a creative request form template perfect for RFIs), makes creating documents and proposals easy and straightforward. And the platform’s powerful project management engine helps you plan and track projects of all sizes — starting with the RFI process itself.

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