How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions - and Do Good [Q&A]

Jay Boolkin is the Founder of Promise or Pay – where personal promises are drivers for social change.

Jan 4, 2016
Jay Boolkin is the Founder of Promise or Pay

Jay Boolkin is the Founder of Promise or Pay

New Year’s resolutions are a time to make a positive change in your life – whether it’s by learning a new skill, accomplishing a physical feat, or working on personal growth. But as the holiday frenzy and excitement wanes, so does often the motivation to stick with your goals. Australian social entrepreneur and good doer, Jay Boolkin, decided to address this tendency by considering what would incentivize people to keep their resolutions – while also making the world a better place. Based on the fact that the chance of achieving a personal goal increases by 33 percent if it is shared with others, and by up to 72 percent if money is put on the line, Boolkin created Promise or Pay.

Here’s how it works: Step one is make a promise – learn to knit, avoid processed food, try skydiving - and select an amount to donate to charity if that promise is broken. Then, share your promise to get others to make a donation if that promise is kept. If you break your promise, you donate your pledged amount to the charity of your choice. But if you keep your promise, your supporters donate and you’re in the clear.

In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Boolkin talks to Goodnet about why and how his fundraising model sets him apart and how you can get involved.   


1. What is your organization’s mission?

Promise or Pay motivates people to do the things they most want to do with their lives, while creating a more engaging, personal and empowering way to donate to charities that make a better world. Our mission is to inspire millions of people from all over the world to be the best they can be and, at the same time, encourage and facilitate millions of dollars in donations to charity.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

Most fundraising models used by the majority of web-based platforms tend to focus purely on grand goals like climbing big mountains or cycling cross-country. On the other hand, a promise can be anything! Promise to quit smoking, meditate every day or simply drink more water. Promise or Pay is different in that it uses monetary stakes and charitable giving as an incentive to help people achieve everyday goals and make positive behavioral changes.

3.  What three words describe your organization?

“To Make Good.” Our purpose is to motivate and inspire people “To Make Good” ­either on their goals or through charitable giving.

Promise of Pay Push Up or Pay Up Promo

Promise or Pay's promotional campaigns inspire users to stick to their goals or donate to good causes

4. What inspires you?

I’m passionate about positive social change and I believe in the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I get inspired by small actions that have the power to bring about big change and love engaging with like-minded people who give more to the world than they take.

5. Who's your favorite good doer figure?

Peter Singer. He’s one of the greatest Australian philosophers, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, and author of numerous books, several of which are about animal rights.

6. What is the best part about your job?

The people… Promise or Pay has given me the opportunity to meet, and work with, some incredibly inspiring and courageous individuals who are committed to making the world a better place.

The variety… I’m always doing different things. Some days I might be liaising with our charity partners or organizing upcoming campaigns, other days I might be meeting with advisors or executing on the marketing plan. Up to this point, I’ve more or less been doing Promise or Pay alone, which means trying to do everything. It can be challenging, but I love it.

The impact… Knowing that Promise or Pay is inspiring people to achieve their personal goals and simultaneously helping charities raise much-needed funds to improve the social needs they focus on. To realize that I can take an idea - a simple thought - and make it a reality that creates social good is an extremely rewarding and encouraging feeling.

Jay Boolkin speaking about Promise or Pay

Boolkin was named one of Australia's top 50 young social entrepreneurs and has won numerous awards for his organization

7.  How do you measure success within your organization?

I measure success by number of users, the ratio of promises kept to broken, donations to charities, those charities’ social impact, the total and per user revenue, and several other measures.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

You can find us on Facebook.

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

Research shows that the chance of achieving a personal goal increases by 33 percent if it is shared with others, and by up to 72 percent if money is put on the line.

Promise or Pay is an online platform that combines these two insights to help you stick to your health goals and make positive behavioral changes by putting your money on the line for charity. If you keep your promise, your Supporters donate. If you break your promise, you donate.

By combining behavioral economics and philanthropy, Promise or Pay ensures a win-win outcome and that you are left feeling good and doing good no matter what happens.

Whether you want to go for a daily run or kick a bad habit, make a promise and put your money where your mouth is.

10.  How can people get involved?

One promise can make a huge difference – what will yours be?

Make your promise at

Mirele writes about everything related to doing good, with a particular interest in volunteering and social entrepreneurship, informed by her background in eco tourism.