Would you pay a price (of your picking) if you broke a promise? Promise or Pay is an online social motivation platform that helps people stick to their goals by donating money to charity if they don’t follow through with them, and encouraging others to donate if they succeed. We spoke to Pay or Promise founder Jay Boolkin to learn how he’s helping people make good on their promises.
How did you come to create Pay or Promise?
Promise or Pay began while I was living and working in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development. The idea was born out of my own struggles to achieve my personal goals as well as my experience within the not-for-profit sector and the desperate need for alternatives to hard sell fundraising tactics.
How does Pay or Promise work?
The process is simple. I make my promise, which can be anything – to meditate every day, lose weight, quit smoking or run a marathon. I then choose an amount to donate if I break my promise and charity that will receive my donation. Once I’ve made my promise I then share it with all my friends who further motivate me by becoming my Supporters and promising to make a donation if, and only if, I keep my promise. What makes this great is that regardless of the outcome money is donated to charity.
- If I keep my promise, my Supporters donate.
- If I break my promise, I donate.
Promise or Pay ensures a win-win outcome and that I am left feeling good no matter what happens.
How do charities benefit?
When asked to identify the greatest worries facing fundraising, the most commonly cited issues are the increasingly competitive charitable market, reduced grant funding, declines in government funding, a lack of resources, donor fatigue, and keeping up with changes in technology and the opportunity that social media might represent.
The power of Promise or Pay is its ability to target a larger audience than just those who usually donate to charity since the act of donating is a result of a secondary intention (the primary intention is to carry out the promised behaviour). Since the primary motivation of using Promise or Pay is not to donate to charity but to achieve a personal goal it helps to expose charities to a new audience of potential supporters.
Do you think people place a lot of value on promises?
I think people are fairly casual about making promises. That being said, there’s little doubt that following through on our commitments is highly valued – it’s a sign of good character, personal integrity and reliability. Promise or Pay uses accountability, (financial) incentives and public support to encourage people to ‘make good’ and live up to their word.
Do you think the way people give is changing?
Yes. In time think social and impact investment will become a new way of ‘giving’ in the not too distant future (hopefully!). Instead of simply making a donation, people will start using their money to make investments in efforts that not only provide a return on investment, but also target specific social needs. People will become investors in social change.
Do you think technology will play a bigger role in how people give in future?
Yes. Most charities are using some sort of digital fundraising technology now so it’s no surprise that online giving grew by 9% last year. However to engage and encourage more people to donate, especially young people, I think we need to implant charitable giving into daily life in simple ways that truly connect with their needs and transforms their interest into practical action. Technology will play a huge role in increasing charitable contributions by creating tailor-made processes that engage the individual and personalises the giving process in a way that can be repeated and sustained.
Any plans for the future?
I’m currently focused on improving the user experience, adding additional content pages, and spreading the word as best I can. My immediate goal is to take advantage of the opportunities provided, to expand on my experience and develop my knowledge and skills. I’m also seriously focused on having a heap of fun along the way. Over the next few months I’ll be working on completing a number of social enterprise development programs, including Impact Academy and the School for Social Entrepreneurs’ Change Makers.
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 Fundraising Institute Australia. (2012). The Australian Fundraisers’ Survey. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.fia.org.au/data/documents/Australian_Fundraisers_Survey_Initial_Findings.pdf