UnitedWaySEM.org website request for proposals

United Way for Southeastern Michigan seeks a web design company to redesign and refresh our website (UnitedWaySEM.org) and to conduct ongoing site maintenance and improvement. A large part of this redesign will be a reimagining of what a nonprofit website can be, with interactive elements woven into the fabric of the site that will keep donors, advocates, volunteers, partners, service seekers and more engaged and informed about the impact their efforts make possible.

The vendor will remain under contract long term for maintenance, development, upkeep, troubleshooting, etc., at an agreed-upon number of hours and budget per month.


Website/audience background

UnitedWaySEM.org provides information about:

  1. Programs that help people meet their basic needs, help children learn, help make communities more equitable, help families reach stability and much more. These programs take place in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties. It’s important to note that we recently announced a merger with United Way of Washtenaw County, set to take effect Oct. 1. Washtenaw is a new service area for us with ample opportunities for growth.
  2. Our giving societies and affinity groups, which bring certain eligible donors together and offer volunteer and networking opportunities and other exclusive benefits.
  3. Advocacy opportunities, in which advocates contact their legislators about issues that United Way believes will improve life in our region. Currently, we use Phone2Action, an external platform, to create advocacy forms and embed them on our site.
  4. Volunteer opportunities, including a link to our volunteer portal on Galaxy Digital, which does not live on our site, but is still critical to our website’s search optimization.
  5. Storytelling (short and long form), press releases, financial information, partner agencies, our leadership team, board and campaign cabinet and more.
  6. Grant opportunities and partner resources.
  7. All other information that anyone might need to know about United Way. We want to ensure that anyone visiting our site will be able to get the answer they need or contact the person who will get them that answer.

Our site is unique in that there are multiple, quite different main audiences we serve:

We rely on several third-party web tools for various aspects of our work, including our:

United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s website, though functioning, can be confusing to navigate and overwhelming to website users, including our own staff. There is a vast amount of information, as well as microsites and multiple, overlapping audiences, making it difficult to clearly highlight calls to action, which are numerous: donating, volunteering, advocating, finding services, applying for grants, and learning about impact/programs. Much of our content is high quality and useful, but it may not be organized in a way that meets the needs of our visitors. We want to be more focused and make it easy for all audiences to find what they’re looking for by providing a more curated experience based on the visitor’s primary interests and the audience they belong to.  We would like to explore setting up a front door to funnel these audiences directly to the information that appeals to them, and to structure the site so the amount of information presented is not overwhelming. We also want to ensure that the website’s design and functionality are as good, if not better, on mobile devices.

Our site was last rebuilt in 2019-2020 and launched in summer 2020. Content is outdated, the design is old and lacks a modern look, and we are behind on the latest website trends. This creates a negative browsing experience, making it more difficult to find information and decipher new from outdated information. We’ve also struggled with search functionality and would like to ensure that a new site has a proper search function that will help users find the exact information they’re looking for.

The site is built on WordPress and hosted on WP Engine. We are comfortable with both and would prefer to stick with them. We are open to exploring other platforms, but we are unlikely to want to switch unless there are actual cost savings, ease of use improvements or other compelling reasons. Regardless of the platform, the United Way team must be able to build pages and publish content as needed.

We handle most content updates to our site in house through the WordPress WYSIWYG editor and very light HTML coding but will rely on the firm for more in-depth work like coding and building templates that we can populate. At times, we will present a design or provide an example of a page we’d like built. At other times, we’ll look to you to provide any expertise on what will help us achieve the results we want. We know that many of the interactive elements mentioned throughout this document will be a new space in which we will lean heavily on your team. In all instances, the selected vendor will work with United Way for Southeastern Michigan brand guidelines.

We’d love for our website to be extremely customizable, allowing us to be flexible as we build pages on our end and avoiding having to ask the vendor to build entirely fresh designs on a regular basis. The selected vendor will be proactive in solving problems and presenting new and unique ideas to continuously drive our website to be the best it can be; fresh, effective and up to the latest standards.


In addition to improving current function, we want new interactive elements that will increase engagement and inspire visitors to make a difference in the community. Possibilities include but are not limited to:

It’s worth noting that, at present, we list 11 different programs and 10 separate ways to get involved in our mega menu, and that doesn’t even cover all the work we do as an organization. WIth the front door solution mentioned above, we can help direct visitors to the proper program. These functions must work well whether they are on desktop, tablet or mobile browsers.

Vendor services

In the short term, the vendor will:

Longer term, the vendor will:

The selected vendor will be forward-thinking, stay on top of the latest trends and pitch innovative ideas that would be nice to try.

Selection Criteria

United Way for Southeastern Michigan is not bound to accept the lowest fee proposal or the highest projected performance. The following list of criteria will be used to evaluate all submitted proposals. The order in which the selection criteria are listed is not necessarily indicative of their relative importance.

A successful applicant will have:

A successful application will provide answers to the following questions:

A successful applicant will include the following items in the application:

Submission Requirements

Interested firms should submit their intent to apply within 10 business days of the launch of the RFP (by Monday, July 31) at UnitedWaySEM.org/IntentToApply. This is not required but highly encouraged. Questions can be submitted at UnitedWaySEM.org/WebsiteRFPQuestions before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, July 31, and will be answered at UnitedWaySEM.org/WebsiteRFP by Friday, Aug. 4. Complete proposals are due via email to LiveUnited@LiveUnitedSEM.org by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15.  If you encounter any issues with your submission, email Dave.Phillips@LiveUnitedSEM.org.

Terms and Funding

Anticipated start date for this contract is Oct. 1, 2023. The contract will be year to year with mutually agreeable renewals and opt outs. Applicants should propose fee structure. This will be managed between United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the chosen vendor. Dave Phillips (Dave.Phillips@LiveUnitedSEM.org) will be the main point of contact.

Reserved Rights

United Way for Southeastern Michigan has the right to:

United Way will not share any information about any submitted proposal with any other entity. All submissions will remain confidential.


July 18: Application opens

Aug. 15: Application closes

Aug. 30 (On or around): Interviews with top candidates begin

Sept. 13 (On or around): Awardee notified

Sept. 29 (On or around): Agreements finalized

Oct. 1: Contract begins

Scoring Rubric

Click here to view/download the scoring rubric.