Asking how much to pay for a website is like asking how much it costs to build a house. Where is this house? How big is the house? Does it have water and sewer lines to the property? There are so many factors it’s impossible to say.
If you issue an RFP and tell the would-be bidders you “don’t have a budget, looking for real costs via the RFP” expect a crap-shoot. You will get bids for 20x what you expect and 1/2x what you expect.
Back to our analogy – if someone tells me the house is going to cost $5,000 – after knowing more about where I am and what I want – then I can make certain assumptions about the house. If they tell me $1,000,000 with the same information, I can assume it will be a very very different house. The same goes for your website.
1) List the expected features in the RFP in as detailed a way as possible. Do not leave out functions that you think are a given.
2) Layout, in the RFP, a relative volume of content and data and detail which, if anyone, is expected to migrate or accommodate it into the new site
3) Include a range or “not to exceed” budget in the RFP. I know that makes a lot of non-profits nervous because their scarcity mentality makes them think they are either going to get ripped off or miss out on a great deal. The fact is redesigning or redeveloping a website is a mid to long-term relationship – there needs to be rapport and trust between you and your vendor – you have lots of control over what will feel like value to you; start with transparency in your RFP.
If you issue an RFP without the range? The one thing you will not get is a bid that truly understands your need. Just like the house – if I say I’ve got $15K for a house – you can tell me exactly what can be done for $15k. See what I mean?