Request for Proposal 

- Intended for select candidates following response to initial Letter of Intent -

I. Preamble 

Thank you for your interest in the strategic planning consultancy for the People's Solar Energy Fund. We were quite pleased with the very strong response to the call for Letters of Intent, with a large number of qualified and diverse applicants. After some challenge, we have selected 10 semi-finalists whom we are inviting to submit a full proposal, and from which 3-5 will be invited for interviews.

We respect the time and labor of consultants. We do not therefore expect a complete plan but allow for that revelation to come after contract confirmation. We also wish to avoid unnecessary busy work. Given that many candidates submitted very thorough responses via the LOI, tantamount to full proposals, we want to note that it is fine to build your further submission upon that LOI (redundancy here is fine), or even to use it verbatim if you feel it adequately addresses what is outlined in this more detailed RFP. However, please do resubmit the materials for our second round files. 

This RFP is expected to require about 3-5 pages maximum of narrative and perhaps a chart or two to complete (again, possibly working off of what you may have already submitted).

II. Key background points

  1. The organization is currently in a very good position. PSEF has experienced major budgetary growth over the past year, and will soon nearly double in staff size (from FTE of 4, to 7 or 8). We have good systems in place; and staff-board relations are solid. Therefore we are fortunate to be stepping into this work in a very healthy way - with no crisis or major internal tensions but undertaking this SP process to best facilitate our thoughtful strategic growth.
  2. At the same time, there are some significant issues to unpack: questions about our core business model and value proposition for our members; questions regarding our organizational culture - balancing varying interests, with some inherent tensions; and questions around governance - balancing member empowerment with the order and efficiency of hierarchy. 
  3. Admittedly, as we've been rolling out this strategic planning process, we've come to realize that there are really two stages of the work. The push to expedite a 3 year SP is tempered by our waiting to hear - hopefully in March or April - about PSEF possibly receiving substantial federal funds (based on two proposals we submitted in coalition with other groups under the federal Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund). Our thinking is that it would be valuable to proceed with a stage 1 of this process that focuses primarily on the types of issues noted above (governance, organizational culture, …), to lay a solid foundation and position us well for a stage 2 that will focus more programmatically (i.e. building around federal funding or having to look elsewhere for our growth trajectory). 

III. Sequencing 

We are thinking that the stage 1 work can hopefully be achieved within 2-3 months (including a staff-board retreat), with important groundwork laid for the ensuing programmatic visioning; and that the stage 2 work - expected to be more focused and streamlined, and therefore lighter touch facilitation - could then hopefully be covered within another 2 months (which may also be the most sustained intensive engagement we can expect of our all volunteer Board members). 

We are hoping therefore that both pieces can be completed by June, and can still fall within the stated budgetary parameters.

IV. Elaboration on key Issues requiring attention

  1. Value proposition/value exchange between PSEF and its members: what interests and offers value to our members? and how does that shape the organization’s business model –  our growth trajectory (in terms of loans, membership growth, capital raised…), range of products and services, and our balance between lending (our original primary focus) and training/capacity-building - which, though unanticipated, is now a central concern given the low supply of loan-ready groups within our targeted constituencies of low-income and BIPOC communities?
  2. Robust, creative brainstorming regarding two organizational fundamentals:
    1. the meaning of membership and a shared “commons”: defining benefits and expectations, roles and responsibilities - to ensure clarity both around self-interest and contribution to the collective; and,
    2. building a strong, well-functioning  governance structure that provides the full high level direction required for a rapidly growing organization (clear organizational policies and protocols, financial oversight, etc.) with complex needs and only a small staff.
  3. Unpacking our organizational culture: 
    1. enhancing our emphasis on cooperative values, member education and engagement; 
    2. balancing project development with people development, i.e. the particular technical demands and pressing timelines for projects versus the education and training needs of people; and 
    3. ensuring strong support to our prioritized frontline and BIPOC communities, even while we reaffirm our universal relevance and eligibility.  
  4. While being true to member empowerment, how do we also honor PSEF’s chosen hierarchical structure that is aimed at ensuring expertise, efficiency and accountability in  decision-making and governance - all towards achieving high productivity, a common standard of excellence, and quality customer service for our members and partners? What are creative ways to meet both member and staff needs to avoid tensions, especially as the volume and pace of the work grows?
  5. Mapping our desired growth trajectory each year over the next 3 years.

V. Deliverables 

The overarching product is a three year strategic plan, with details expected only for Year 1. (We believe that simply undergoing this process will be valuable and lay an important foundation and precedent from which we should learn a great deal and be able to rather easily implement a very truncated version at year’s end to outline detailed plans for Year 2.)

Additionally, however, we currently foresee the following deliverables, although we remain open to Consultant’s ideas on steps and outputs that will best address the above issues.

  1. “Process deliverables” to include -
    1. Report 1: following contract completion, response to questions from Strategic Planning Committee (“SPC”) on submitted RFP, towards completion of a fully detailed scope of services, addressing all points below and others developed by Consultant.
    2. Activity 1: interviews with the SPC, select board, members and partners to assess different perceptions of the organization's SWOT.
    3. Report 2: max 5-page summary, with brief individual interview summaries and full detailed notes attached.
    4. Activity 2: meeting with SPC to discuss retreat plans.
    5. Report 3: based on the meeting and prior interviews, comprehensive plan for a staff-board-member retreat (logistics to be implemented by staff).
    6. Activity 3: Attend and facilitate the retreat, plus handle documentation, including detailed notetaking or recording during the event (with which staff may be able to assist) 
    7. Report 4: written synthesis within 7 business days following retreat, with all detailed notes attached (up to 5 pages) 
    8. Activity 4: post-retreat meeting to reflect, and then outline next steps.
    9. Activity 5: possibly check-ins with working groups or committees formed from retreat.
    10. Report 5: perhaps brief, periodic updates.
    11. Report 6: process plan for mapping out a 3-year strategic plan.

(Again, this is a starting point for consideration. More steps will be needed, and we welcome additional ideas.) 

  2. Research deliverables: 

    1. A landscape analysis to better understand our context - at the nexus of a few fields and variables (climate science and public reaction, technology, philanthropy, impact investing, possible change in federal Administrations , …) that are all rapidly changing. (Sources of analysis to be drafted by Consultant at the outset and agreed upon.)
    2. A SWOT analysis - to help clarify our particular value proposition, what to leverage, and possibly what to let go of.

VI. Logistics and Process

  1. Timeline: March through May or, more realistically, June.
  2. Total cost: $30,000-$40,000
  3. Decision-Making Process
    1. Consultant will lead the entire Strategic Planning process with support and oversight from the SPC, composed of select staff, member organization representatives, and board members.
    2. Consultant is responsible for seeking broader input from stakeholders such as key partners and donors. 
    3. Consultant will work with the SPC to ensure implementation of at least the first important steps towards altering our operations. 

VII. Client resources in this process

  • The client’s point person on this project is Mitty Owens, one of the two Co-Directors. Consultant will have regular, easy access to Mitty as this work is a leading organizational objective, not to be marginalized or back-burnered.
  • An administrative support person to handle basic logistical details vital to the process but not the best use of Consultants time, e.g. calendaring meetings, sending reminders, etc.
  • Access to all Client resources such as: 
    • current meetings, including monthly board meetings, bimonthly member meetings, monthly SP committee meetings
    • organizational archival materials 
    • individual or group stakeholders interviews as desired.

IX. Responding to this RFP and next steps 

  • Deadline: Wednesday, February 7th. (Note: all semi-finalists have been contacted on the morning of January 29th, allowing 8 business days to submit this full RFP.)
  • Proposals should be sent to PSEF’s Operations Manager, Ceyda Durmaz-Dogan at 
  • As noted above, a 5 page maximum proposal should be submitted, with full allowance of repetition from initial LOI materials submitted.
  • Finalists will be contacted by February 12th to set up interviews.
  • It is the hope that final selection, contract negotiations and start date will occur by February 29th. 

** Note: we recommend that you check this document again prior to submission for any minor updates (that would be highlighted at top).

Thank you again for your interest in the People's Solar Energy Fund.