The story of Promise or Pay: leveraging the power of the promise to raise funds and do good

We’re Annie, Catherine, Emily, and Veevek and we’re interns at the Social Impact Hub. This semester we’ve had the amazing opportunity to work on a project for a new social enterprise called Promise or Pay!


Promise or Pay 101

Founded by social entrepreneur Jay Boolkin, Promise or Pay focuses on making promises and charitable giving. The concept is simple: you make a commitment on the Promise or Pay web platfrom (such as to stick to your gym schedule, or clean up your garage), and you promise to give money to a charity of your choosing if you don’t follow through. If you succeed with your promise, your friends or family donate. The idea is to both help people follow through with their own goals, and simultaneously raise much-needed money for a diverse group of charities.

Growing a social enterprise

As interns, our role has been to help Jay develop a business plan by conducting market analysis and identifying growth strategies for Promise or Pay as it expands its reach. This work has been invaluable in expanding our own knowledge of start-up social enterprises and the processes involved in the early stages of such organisations.

I promise to…

Inspired by the mission of Promise or Pay, we went about making our own promises. Here’s what we found:


Now that I’m in my second last year at university, I find my mindset shifting from just thinking about my next assignment to thinking about what I’ll be doing after I graduate! Deadlines for job applications at law firms are approaching, but I want to take a broader view of what I could do in my career. To help motivate me to think creatively about it, I promised to research ten potential employers who were NOT law firms, or else I would pay $50 to Assistance Dogs Australia. I was glad to be able to make this promise, because it’s been high on my priority list, I just haven’t made the time for it yet!


As a busy university student juggling work, assignments and fun, I have always found it hard to stick to a regular fitness routine. As a result, I regularly feel pangs of guilt as each day goes by and I fail to attend a fitness class or go to the gym. To motivate myself whilst also getting  support from my friends and family, I signed up to a Promise campaign on the Promise or Pay website. I promised to go to the gym three times a week for 30 days or pay $30 to Open Minds, a charity that provides accommodation, health and employment support for people with mental illness. Having made this promise, I am confident that this is just the push that I need to get into a habit of exercising and to feel good about my health!


Hej, mitt namn är Emily, and I’ve made a Promise to practice another language for 15 minutes every day for 60 days or Pay $50 to the Footpath Library! Following my graduation at the end of this semester, I’m taking four months off to backpack through Europe. In an effort not to be the useless tourist going around speaking English everywhere I go (Sprechen sie Englisch, anyone?), I thought it would be useful to expand my (very limited) language repertoire. The Footpath Library is an inspiring charity that makes books more accessible to homeless and disadvantaged people in society. Making this Promise and reaching out to my supporters is helping me to make good on my goals and is raising awareness about a worthy charity!


Over the course of a semester, university, assignments and work can cause a build-up of stress. For months I have wanted to take a break from all of this and go on a refreshing and revitalising hiking trip as a personal challenge. Not only is this a good form of exercise, but a real sense of accomplishment can be gained after completing a physical challenge like this. I’ve made a promise to go on a hike through Sydney’s bushlands, otherwise I will donate $20 to Promise or Pay. This will really motivate me to do something that has been on my list for a while and I’m also looking forward to gaining support from friends. It’s great to be able to donate directly to Promise or Pay and help spread the word about this new and exciting platform.

Hannah ZhangThe story of Promise or Pay: leveraging the power of the promise to raise funds and do good