Must Have Elements for a Successful Fairground Master Plan RFP or RFQ

As Fairground Facility Architects and Fairground Planners and Designers, we at K/O (KO or Keffer/Overton) know firsthand that master plans are a crucial part of the success of any organization. They provide direction and vision, and they help keep everyone on track with their goals and objectives. Whether you’re creating a master plan for your fairgrounds or your community, it’s important to know how to write an effective RFP or RFQ (Request for Proposal or Request for Qualifications). Otherwise, you might not attract the high-quality level of consultant team you desire.

We’ve assembled the following must have information you need to review before writing your next master plan RFP or RFQ!



We have seen many good and bad RFPs and RFQs, and we have responded to many of them as well.

We always want to see that an RFP or RFQ is very clear, easy to read, and understand.

When there are challenges with the document, it is often because:

  • The budget does not align with the presented scope
  • The timeline for completion is too short or unrealistic
  • The project description lacks detail about what is expected from a vendor


Differences between RFPs and RFQs

  • Both RFPs and RFQs are used to select design and planning consultants.
  • RFPs are more formal and often more detailed. Sometimes RFQs are phase 1 before inviting firms to respond to an RFP. Keep it simple though – if you know your budget – issue an RFQ, skip the RFP process.
  • RFPs require pricing, RFQs don’t. The client (you – the person issuing the request) places a scoring weight on pricing as well as qualifications in an RFP. In contrast, an RFQ scores only the qualifications of a consultant irrespective of price; it’s only after all responses have been received and a preferred consultant is selected that price discussions start.


Initial Parts to include in a Master Plan RFP or RFQ

The following is a list of the parts that are typically included in a master plan RFP or RFQ.

  • Executive Summary: The executive summary is the first section of your RFP, and it should be used to explain the opportunity and purpose for issuing this document. This section should give readers an overview of what they can expect to find throughout the rest of the document. It should also highlight any unique aspects about your project that need to be mentioned before moving on to other sections.
  • Introduction, Opportunity, and Purpose: This section will go into more detail about why you are issuing this RFP, including details about whether there is funding available for the project (or are you just trying to get a consultant onboard for a future project), how much money has already been set aside for this project, and if known what is the anticipated budget. You may also want to mention any special qualifications or deadlines required by potential proposers (i.e., mostly importantly – only those companies with fairground experience will be considered).
  • Project Scope: This section will provide information about who will benefit from this project (i.e., youth, rodeo participants, vendors, community, etc.) as well as what is the overarching outcome of completing the master plan (i.e., build a new arena, livestock barns, or a multi-purpose building, etc.). Is this more than a physical facilities plan, will there be other required services such as a market analysis, a financial feasibility analysis, or an economic impact study? Keep in mind these types of services are nice, but they can sometimes double the budget of the study. Make sure to do research to understand what you’re asking for and what you need before sending out a Request.
  • Major Agreement Terms and Conditions: Make sure you outline a timeframe for the delivery of services as you don’t want to allow for an indefinite timeframe to allow for completion. What happens if work pauses because of slow approvals? What does termination mean for each party (i.e., does it mean that all work must stop immediately)? How much compensation is owed by either side? These are all questions worth asking to secure your interests and avoid any surprises later down the road if things don’t go according to plan! Often there are standard forms or contracts that shape the basis of the initial agreement. Keep in mind most agreements require a down payment. We often use the American Institute of Architects Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect – Form AIA B101 or B105, then we strike all references to architectural services if the project is a master plan or we can use a hybrid agreement structured around the AIA versions.


Submission Requirements

Make sure to list the elements that you expect the proposer to include in their submission. These are items that will be scored, most RFPs/RFQs indicate the number of points each element is worth (see example below, to keep it easy strive to have your required items add up to an even 100 points). Make sure to require a page limit, otherwise if left unchecked you might receive generic marketing materials – although they look nice these take time to sort through and review (and you might receive 100+ pages). Proposers appreciate a limit to the page count, that way they can focus the content of their response. A typical response does not need to be any longer than 30-40 pages (30 pages would include scored content items only; 40 pages would be all-in and include other elements such as: a cover, table of contents, dividers, and a back cover, etc.). Typically required scored elements (with example weighted point values) include:

  • Transmittal Letter, and General Readability of Submission (5 points)
  • Firm Profile (5 points)
  • Team Member Resumes (15 points)
  • Project Experience – Make sure it is recent relevant fairground experience (30 points)
  • Proposed Approach (Scope of Services), including – deliverables, schedule, and milestones (30 points)
  • Fees and expenses for all services – only if it is an RFP (10 points)
  • References (5 points)

This scoring focuses on Project Experience and the Proposed Approach – you can skew the scoring however you want. To be fair, make sure you’re upfront in the RFP/RFQ in advance and outline how you intend to score the proposals.


Instructions to Proposers

Make sure to include clear instructions on how you want proposers to submit their response.

  • Submission Requirements: The response from proposers should be sent via email in PDF format or uploaded through a specified electronic submission portal. Most entities are now only requiring electronic copies. If you decide that hard copies (printed versions) are needed, make sure to give the mailing address and number of copies required (make sure to account for holidays and weekends if you require a date for mailed submissions – i.e. don’t require it due on a day you’re closed). Also note that if you require more than 3 hard copies it starts to become a burden to ship and print, not to mention expensive for the proposers to next day mail multiple copies.
  • Make sure to indicate a specific time and date that the submissions are due.
  • Although not necessary. if you are going to have a pre-proposal submission meeting (informational meeting), make sure to indicate the time, date, and weblink of the meeting (realize that if you make this meeting mandatory you run the risk of limiting the number of bids you’ll receive). The purpose of the meeting should be to discuss the particulars of the project. A virtual meeting is typically fine for this as many qualified vendors are probably located outside of your region.
  • Other instructions might include reminders to include specific forms or make sure that they have shown receipt of addendum in their cover letter, etc. An addendum is an official issued clarification or additional information provided to proposers after the official RFP or RFQ is released, but before the proposal is submitted. Showing receipt of an addendum in the proposal ensures that this information was received by the vendor.


Specific Forms Required

As mentioned above in the Instructions to Proposers specific forms might be required in a submittal.

  • In the RFP or RFQ, make sure to clearly say if a specific form is required to be completed by bidders or vendors. Most of the time certain forms are only required by statute or laws in your jurisdiction.
  • Example required forms (most need a date/signature) might include complex Price Proposal forms, Non-Collusion Affidavits, Insurance Requirement forms, etc.
  • If forms are required make sure to provide them in your RFP/RFQ, they should not count against the required page count included in the Submission Requirements outlined above. Double check to make sure that all the forms required by your RFP/RFQ are included in your final version sent out to proposers — this includes any templates or examples of how they should look when completed or filled out electronically (e.g., PDFs). This will keep things simple for everyone involved: no one wants to waste time hunting around for needed documents that are accidentally excluded from the RFP!
  • An easy way to include required forms in a proposal is to create a DocuSign link (or similar) in the RFP/RFQ text and have all submitters go to the link and fill out and sign all required forms online prior to submission of their Response.


Project Schedule

An outline of the RFP/RFQ schedule is important to include in your document. Your project schedule should include milestones and deadlines. The schedule should also include a description of what is expected at each milestone, including:

  • An overview of the project’s key tasks or activities.
  • The main things to include are the due date for questions, the date that answers will be given, the time/date the submittal is due, the date that a choice will be made, and if needed the expected date of interviews.
  • Make sure to also include the desired completion date for the overall project. Make sure this is realistic – most master plans take 9-12 months to complete. Also, it is always desirable to have the consultant attend your fair (during the annual fair) prior to completion of the master plan.


Appendix Items

Often an RFP/RFQ has an appendix. Appendix items can include more information about the project. These could include maps, surveys, photos, drone video footage, example contracts, and other relevant documents. You may choose to include these in a separate PDF appendix, separate file attachments, or even accessible from a download link if needed.



We hope that this article has helped you better understand the differences between RFPs and RFQs, and the basics of how to write a master plan RFP or RFQ. Remember, a master plan is your Fairground’s roadmap for the future. It will guide you through all the major decisions you need to make about how to grow, what investments to make and potentially how much money you should spend each year. That’s why it’s so important that you get these decisions right. If you have any questions or would like help writing your own RFP or RFQ, please do not hesitate to email us or contact us via our website.

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