Selecting an association LMS is a huge undertaking and traditionally involves a request-for-proposal from vendors. The RFP process has been viewed as an unnecessary step that adds complexity to the search process rather than simplifies it. Others believe that an effective LMS RFP is crucial.

According to industry experts. there are plenty of reasons to use the RFP process and a few reasons not to. In this article, we’ll walk you through five reasons why an LMS RFP is important when selecting a learning management system for your association.

Reason #1: An LMS RFP Lets You Articulate Your Business Needs

John Leh, co-founder, and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, emphasizes that by going into the RFP process, you are able to articulate your business needs comprehensively. Specifically, an LMS RFP lets you:

  • Define what it is you need
  • Describe how the LMS will be used
  • Identify what role the LMS will play to your members
  • Plan how to leverage your education initiatives as an alternative revenue stream

 Knowing assciations’ needs and understanding the role an LMS plays in your learning business is crucial in ensuring your organization’s long-term success.

Reason #2: An LMS RFP Lets You Showcase What Makes Your Organization Unique

Writing an RFP for LMS vendors lets you lay out what makes your organization unique. Most of the time, organizations and LMS vendors use templates during the RFP process. There are several free RFP templates out there, mostly built from generic requirements and with a one-size-fits-all approach. An LMS company will recognize that you’re using a generic RFP template, probably the one that they’ve seen 20 times before, and they will respond accordingly – with their own generic response.


It is very unlikely that your organization’s needs are identical to other associations out there, so you need to show what makes your organization unique. An LMS is a substantial investment, so you need to show the LMS vendors that you are not taking this purchase lightly. Moreover, an LMS RFP tells vendors that:

  • Your organization have taken the time to define your requirements
  • Your organization has clear metrics for success
  • Your organization has a distinct set of needs that not all LMSs can satisfy

Reason #3: An LMS RFP Helps You Make an Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Not all LMSes are made equal. Some LMSes are built for employee training (e.g. corporate LMS) while others are specifically built for organizations that cater to external learners (e.g. association LMS). By setting the criteria for the RFP, you can do an apples-to-apples comparison. Doing the opposite – assessing a dozen LMSes by whatever criteria the vendors deem important – is a waste of time.

Avoid spinning your wheels trying to sort out what’s of value to your organization by outlining your priorities, the must-have features, the non-negotiables. Include use cases, examples of two or three activities and workflows that are important to your learning business and that you’ll expect the LMS finalists to accomplish in front of you and your team. 

Reason #4: An LMS RFP Keeps Vendors Accountable

Issuing an LMS RFP gives you a good idea as to which vendors overpromise and/or underdeliver. Anyone can write anything on a piece of paper, but the proof of the pudding is in the case studies and use cases that vendors provide in the RFP. A clear and concise response to your use cases (preferably with examples from current clients) is a good sign that an LMS vendor won’t mislead you.
Not only will a well-written RFP tell you which LMS vendor can walk their talk, but it will also assure you of a vendor who can keep their word. The RFP process prevents “vendor amnesia”, a rare condition after a sale of an LMS where vendors seem to forget what they promised prospects during the selection process. By requiring vendors to put their responses in writing, you will have documentation to show should the LMS implementation hit roadblocks and you need to work with the vendor to realign expectations.

Reason #5: An LMS RFP Separates a Vendor from a Partner

An LMS RFP gives a signal to LMS vendors that they’re in a competitive situation. This then leads to a friendly rivalry between key vendors, pulling out all the stops to win your business. An RFP will help level the playing field. It will show which candidate is invested in your long-term success and which vendor is only interested in making a sale. 

Remember that learning businesses are ever-evolving, and organizations need a reliable partner that can grow with those changing needs. Some LMS vendors will simply hand you a product after the contract has been signed, and you are stuck with a system that won’t scale. But by writing a well-structured LMS RFP, you will be able to distinguish a product peddler from a true partner.

If your organization is looking for an association LMS specifically built for growing learning businesses, CourseStage LMS could be the right fit for you.

Interested in learning how to write an effective LMS RFP?