SMP Nuts and Bolts

Define Purpose and Scope

Hire a Technical Consultant

Most SMPs require the support of technical consultants to advise, conduct and evaluate data to inform decision making, project identification, and project design. Thoughtful consideration of the hiring process, including how the request for proposals (RFP) is framed, is critical to enlisting the best qualified consultant(s) for the project.

The first step in RFP development is for the SMP leadership and key stakeholders to have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives they are trying to achieve through the SMP–a clear vision for the SMP translates to a clear RFP. The best RFPs provide adequate detail while leaving room for consultants to be innovative. RFPs should present the what, why and when of the project so the candidate consultants can present their approach to meet the goals. Considering all the components of the RFP up front will set the stage for a smooth selection process.

Common sections for an RFP include:

Desired outcomes.

Overview of the project background.

Outline of the stakeholder engagement process and any corresponding expectations for the consultant to respond/engage with stakeholders during the technical work. SMP efforts can have as much if not more time dedicated to stakeholder process compared to technical work. Conveying the expectations is important.

Outline goals, objectives and anticipated deliverables by task, asking the consultant to propose the appropriate methodologies and reasoning behind those decisions.

Define how goals/objectives/deliverables will be used to inform decision making. Providing this information will help the consultant navigate the presentation, language, and other considerations important to developing the deliverable for its intended use (e.g., the Eagle River Community Water Plan will be a key component of future NEPA permitting so any data or information generated should keep NEPA language and process in mind).

Selection criteria that the proposal will be graded against.

Delineation of the skill sets that are anticipated for the project (e.g., project management, ecologist, hydrologist, outreach/communications, etc.).

Reporting/invoicing requirements and an expectation for the consultant to present a plan for how they will communicate with the project team.



A statement that offers flexibility for the consultant to offer a different approach than what is being presented in the RFP.

Recommendations for the selection process:

Delegate a selection committee to draft the RFP and oversee the selection process. Most government entities will have a selection protocol which could be used as a process template. At a minimum, this group should keep solid records (including saving proposals, interview notes, and assessment/scoring sheets).

Ensure pre-proposal meetings or question/answer sessions, if any, are fair and that all firms have been provided equal information.

Take time to check the firm’s references and do some due diligence by researching past clients that are not listed in the proposal to ensure the firm meets the project needs and has a solid reputation.


  1. The South Boulder Creek RFP provides a template of how to format an RFP including examples of appropriate content sections.
  2. The St. Vrain and Left Hand Creek RFP provides an example of how to emphasize expectations for local stakeholder engagement.
  3. The City of Steamboat Springs RFP provides an example of how to allow room for consultant creativity in approach.
  4. The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition’s RFP includes questions that each task is designed to answer.
  5. The Yampa IWMP Proposal Score Sheet provides a template for evaluating multiple proposals.
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