PAIN: Understanding the Pain Points of the Funder

Chapter 2

PAIN: Understanding the Pain Points of the Funder

One of the first lessons I learned as a grant writer and bid proposal writer was that “no one cares what you want.” I learned that my agenda and my client’s agenda both needed to become subordinate to funder’s agenda. I help my clients to take off their hats and put on the funder’s. It is vital to see the project through the eyes of the funder. I use the acronym P.A.I.N. to represent the Pimples (public relations scars), Agony (loss), Intelligence (expertise and qualifications), and Never Again (end of loss).


Do you remember in high school or middle school when you got your first memorable pimple? This was the bane of my existence. I would look at the mirror and see a puss-filled, painful, ugly bump, and all my attention was focused on getting rid of it. The same thing happens for the funder or offerer. They experience the pain of pimples. Yes, pimples: the public relations scars and branding challenges that every cause or agency encounters. It is your job to create a narrative to solve these public relations scars. You have to become their proactive zit blasting wash. You have to remove the pain of pimples and empathize with their agony and loss.


We have all experienced the loss of a loved one. We have all lost friendships, fellowships, and favorite restaurants. Transfer these emotions to the cause or agency who is receiving the proposal. Write this empathy into the proposal to help the readers feel that you understand their loss and are prepared to present a solution.


Become the best at what you do. Read more, and present a cutting edge proposal that utilizes the latest technology, communication methods, people, and building resources. Fill your team with the most qualified people in their field. Develop new strategic partnerships that position you as the most qualified in the field. Think of it like this: when you are in pain and in the hospital, you want to see the most qualified physician. You want the person that has been to school the longest and has the most actual experience solving the problem you have. These same principles help your organization to become the most experienced “doctor” at solving this specific problem.

Never Again

Simply put, you want to position the proposal to describe a program that is sustainable. You want to relieve the anxiety of the reader so that they understand the potential that you have to make their pain go away permanently.

For Nonprofits the PAIN is the Funder’s Cause

Nonprofits must visualize the board meeting of the funder and the multiple planning conversations that developed the grant request. Understand that one or more people were very concerned about each question on the grant request. To them, this information is vital to the funder conceptualization of the “cause” or “problem” being addressed through the funding opportunity.

For Businesses the PAIN is the Need for the Product or Service

For businesses it can be even harder to remove the profit driven hat and adopt a procurement mindset. By shifting this mindset is vital to understanding that normal business-to-business or client sales pitches do not work for professional bids. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) are driven from a real need of the agency. Something is either not working or will not work if the bid is not procured. By changing its thinking from a sales pitch to a pain pitch, businesses help the professional proposal to directly address the need of the agency.

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