IFBs vs. RFPs: What’s the Difference?

IFBs vs. RFPs: What’s the Difference?

School bids have traditionally followed the “Invitation for Bid” model, but some districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, have begun adopting the broader, “Request for Proposal” model

School procurement law is based on a simple premise: all procurement must be fair, open and competitive. That means that any company has the opportunity to be a supplier; that the process used to select products and suppliers must be transparent; and that the award has to be objective, going to the offer that is in the district’s best interest.

Procurement in the regulated public school environment can executed using either an Invitation for Bid (IFB) or a Request for Proposal (RFP). Previously, the LAUSD had employed the IFB model, but Barrett believed that the use of service RFPs would simplify its processes and drive lower overall procurement costs.

In general, if the need is for a specified product and the only difference lies in price, an IFB is what’s called for. Depending on the size of the bid and what limits there are on the district, bids can be sealed or informal. Any company that wishes to should have the chance to respond.

In contrast, RFPs are used when there are other factors that come to play in the purchasing decision. RFPs are more complex; they tend to focus on supply chain issues and an organization’s “total costs of procurement.” They can also specify service levels in addition to simple product specifications. RFPs still must have objective and transparent evaluation criteria. Federal law requires that price has to be the most important factor when weighing evaluation factors.

Whether IFB or RFP, awards must be made to the most responsive and responsible submitting party. Legally, “most responsive” means that the products or services best meet the district’s needs. “Responsible” means that a vendor is fully capable of meeting the RFP’s requirements.