Interview of Jay Boolkin from Promise or Pay, Real Business Stories | Read Startups
Read the interview with Jay Boolkin, Promise or Pay


Please explain your venture to us in brief.
Promise or Pay is a social motivation platform that combines these two approaches to help you stick to your goals by donating money to charity if you don’t follow through, and encouraging others to donate if you succeed. In doing so it ensures a win-win outcome is always achieved and you are left feeling good. Promise or Pay creates a more engaging, personal and empowering way for individuals to make charitable donations.

When did you join the business? What have you brought to the table?
Recognizing that charitable giving was facing an up hill battle to continually survive and grow, I saw a way to make giving fun by delivering a way that enables individuals to take responsibility for giving a little to do a whole lot. I brought the idea to the table and from day one was tenacious and driven by a passionate belief that Promise or Pay could make a real difference.

What makes this particular concept different? Are there competitors? If yes, how do you stand out?
Promise or Pay is a new and exciting fundraising platform that is unlike any other. It is the ultimate, scalable social motivation platform differentiated by:

- Charitable giving - Promise or Pay improves on self-improvement platforms like Lift and Pact, by integrating charitable giving and using it as a motivator. In doing so it is not only novel and fresh but it also ensures a win- win outcome and a guaranteed social impact.

- Expanding on traditional fundraising platforms – Promise or Pay expands on the standard event-driven model (e.g. mycause and Everyday Hero) because you put your own money on the line, your Supporter’s only donate if you achieve your goal, and a promise can be anything! Promise to quit smoking or simply promise to call your mum more often. Promise or Pay makes a personal goal (i.e. a promise) an every day ‘event’.

- Social engagement – By making and sharing a promise an intrinsic part of the platform, every promise has huge viral potential. In leveraging the social trend to share experiences with others online Promise or Pay also helps expose partner charities to a new and untapped audience of potential supporters.

- Youth focus – Through branding and messaging, and creating campaigns that target the goals and aspirations of Millennials, Promise or Pay speaks to a generation that are looking to make a positive difference to their own lives and to the world around them.

What is the revenue model?
Revenue is currently generated through a per donation commission fee paid by partner charities listed on the website. Future income streams will be generated through white labeling/co-branding Promise or Pay for businesses to engage their staff and customers. Promise or Pay will also raise revenue through company partnerships and sponsors, targeted rewards and advertising arrangements.

Who are the consumers that you are targeting with the innovation? How is this going to affect them?
Promise or Pay appeals to the natural human instinct to set goals, to have dreams and to make resolutions. It leverages off the social trend to share experiences with others electronically and it speaks to a generation that has grown up in a world where social issues are impossible to ignore and are looking for a way to make a difference.

Australians will spend $6.6 billion on self-improvement in 2014 and $371 million on health and well-being programs. When it comes to charity, Australians donate over $2 billion every year, with online giving growing by 14% in 2013. Promise or Pay bridges both these markets and targets Australian Millennials (18-35 years) that are dedicated to self- improvement, active on social media and interested in nonprofits, volunteerism, and social issues.

What is the potential of growth?
The size of the Millennial market is huge. Currently there are over 1.7 billion Millennials living throughout the globe and over 80% of them have donated money, good or services for a cause; 63% donated to charities, 43% actively volunteer; and 52% have signed petitions. Collectively Millennials yield nearly $200 billion in direct giving power, and according to the Millennial Impact Report, nearly 40% gave amounts between $1-50, and another 23% gave at $51-100 levels in 2013. In Australia alone there are over 4.2 million Millennials.

Give us a brief background of what you were doing before starting the venture.
I was living and working full-time in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development.

Future plans:
I am currently focused on fixing up some of the bugs on the new site, adding additional content pages, and spreading the word with the aim of capitalising on the potential for New Year’s Resolutions to be made on the platform. In 12 months I intend to have validated the platform be on my way towards achieving Promise or Pay's mission, which is to inspire millions of people around the world to be the best that they can be, and, at the same time, to have encouraged and facilitated millions of dollars in donations to charities.

Have you received any funding so far? Are you looking for funds? If yes how do you look to allocate the funds?
$5,000 as a selected startup for the INCUBATE Accelerator Program.

What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
The biggest challenge I initially faced was simply slowing down - taking a moment to stop and take a breath. This is a cliché but the truth is that without giving myself some space (away from Promise or Pay) to stay inspired I would probably have burnt out by now. My experience of starting a social enterprise startup, and I’m sure this is not an uncommon experience, is that it is absolutely engrossing – Promise or Pay is my life. My passion and commitment to seeing it through to success (or failure) means that all my energy is devote towards it. Being a sole-founder is added pressure, as I’m not able to delegate work and find it difficult to switch off. For the first few months there were countless nights when I wouldn't be able to sleep and would work until the sun began to rise.

Promise or Pay is my precious baby, and there was a point where my emotional involvement became detrimental to the project. Very quickly my health, my relationships and my creativity began to suffer. Ideas that were once following through me like a waterfall began to slow, I was taking longer to do simple things, and I began to just lose momentum. I have learnt that while unregulated enthusiasm is a wonderful thing, if you don’t give (let) yourself live outside of your startup, it will eventually begin to work against you.