Jay Boolkin – founder of Promise or Pay

Jay believes in the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. He has studied extensively at a tertiary level having completed a Master of International Social Development, Graduate Diploma of Project Management and Bachelor of Commerce, as well as undertaking an array of humanitarian and social development courses. Jay has over 5 years of experience within the non-profit sector both in Australia and overseas, and recently spent a year living in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador For Development. He is also the founder of The Yoke Project where he works exclusively with not-for-profit organisations internationally to help extend their social media presence. Previously he has worked with Amnesty International Australia, AID/WATCH, Baptist World Aid, and was a contributor/writer for Youth Leader Online Magazine.

promiseorpay.com @promiseorpay facebook instagram


Get inspired. Seek feedback. Learn from others. Leverage networks. Be resilient. Dismiss doubts. Practice patience. Prioritise tasks. Take action. And, most importantly, have fun.

Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

Promise or Pay 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.

I discovered that when it comes to achieving goals, research shows that chance of success increases by 33% if it is shared with others and by up to 72% if money is put on the line. 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.

As government support for not-for-profits declines and individual donations yet to recover to pre-GFC levels, competition for public donations is more intense than ever. The recent Grant Thornton’s Not for Profit Sector Survey 2013/2014 shows that 80% of Australian not-for-profits are constantly looking for new ways to generate funds. Promise or Pay is just one way to use technology to create tailor-made processes that engage the individual and personalises the giving process in a way that can be repeated and sustained.

The initial idea behind Promise or Pay came up while I was living and working full-time in Cambodia as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development. I was able to build a ‘beta’ site as a result of winning the Social Startups MVP program, a worldwide competition based on social impact scalability and business model sustainability. The success of the beta site (considering the limited time and resources at my disposal) inspired me to move back to Sydney to give it a full-time crack.

Please explain your business model.

Revenue is currently generated through a per donation commission fee (10%) 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.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

I am currently working 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.

How do you make ideas happen?

Get inspired. Seek feedback. Learn from others. Leverage networks. Be resilient. Dismiss doubts. Practice patience. Prioritise tasks. Take action. And, most importantly, have fun.

What does your typical day look like?

Wake up. Drink coffee. Return emails. Surf. Return more emails. Tackle the never-ending ‘To Do’ list with more coffee somewhere in between.

Promise or Pay Workspace

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

I find that the high cost of living in Australia can make it difficult to test out ideas – especially if there is tech involved – unless you have the skills yourself (or know someone who does and is willing to work for nothing) or the money to pay for them. For a cash-strapped startup who can’t find the right people to bring on board, outsourcing work overseas is an option, however I haven’t had the best experience to date. In fact the development side of Promise or Pay has been a struggle. I feel that to get to where I am today is a testament to my resilience and passion to see Promise or Pay succeed. Although not specific to the Australian context, being a sole-founder has also been challenge, as I’m not able to delegate work and find it difficult to switch off.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

Put your feet in a plastic bag when getting into your wetsuit, it’ll change your life.

More on topic, someone should start a site/newsletter that compiles an up to date listing of all the potential startup opportunities available in Australia – pitch competitions, hackathons, applications for accelerator programs, ideas contests etc. On the other hand, if someone knows of something like this floating around please let me know!

What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?

As we become more and more worried about the impact of capitalism in today’s society (or maybe it’s just me?) I think the need for change is becoming increasingly obvious. I may totally naïve but I think that business can play a huge role in affecting social change by shifting their focus on creating a human-centred, value-oriented society. I think businesses have a responsibility to not only achieve social objectives, but to strategically reorganise the way they traditionally do things in order to serve authentic human needs. I think the value for social businesses is growing and believe that big business can learn a lot by supporting social entrepreneurs. Collaboration between non-government organisations, social enterprises, and companies can encourage humanistic business practices, which will eventually become part of the mainstream and very powerful drivers of positive change.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.




Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.

Justin Dry : @justinldry

Holly Ransom : @HollyRansom

James Alexander : @shortino29

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

I’d love some funding! I’m currently living off my savings and they are quickly running out. I am in desperate need of financial support to cover Promise or Pay’s business and administration expenses over the next 12 months. If you know any philanthropic individuals and foundations who care about positive social change and may be interested in investing in Promise or Pay – please let me know!

I am also looking to partner with Australian charities and would love to speak to anyone interested in offering Promise or Pay pro-bono PR and marketing services.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?

Where do I find a first-rate, super-enthusiastic, socially minded, business-brained, ultra-reliable, Sydney-based CTO?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?


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