Promise or Pay to Change the World | The BridgeMaker

Promise or Pay to Change the World

By on Mar 12, 2014

promise or pay

Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them. – John Green

Do you keep promises? Can you even remember the last promise you made?

Growing up most of us (usually after forgetting to pick up our clothes off the bathroom floor or do our homework) had an adult bend down, look us directly in the eyes and say with earnest, “You know, you should never break a promise.

When Life Happens

Whether or not we make “promises”, we can’t avoid making commitments all the time. We commit to returning phone calls and emails, helping a friend move, visiting our parents, exercising more etc.

But then life happens and, like promises, we slip up. It is very difficult to follow through on every single commitment we make, especially those that entail us doing something to improve ourselves. Taking out the trash is one thing but running a marathon, stopping smoking or losing that extra weight is a whole new kettle of fish.

Putting Something on the Line

Like millions of other people around the world on New Year’s Eve 2013, I made some resolutions to change my life. I tried incredibly hard and by June I had followed through on exactly… none of them.

I wasn’t the only one. In fact, while 45% of people make New Year’s resolutions only 8% of people stick to them.

Even when we make promises to ourselves to do the things that would make our lives better we often get sidetracked by distractions, lack motivation or simply slip back into routine. So this got me thinking, what could I do to be more motivated to follow through on my self-improvement commitments?

To actually doing what I ‘could’ or ‘should’ do.

What I realised is that making promises to myself was simply not enough and that to really increase the likelihood that I would follow through on my declarations to ‘do good’ I needed to put something on the line.

Intuitively this makes sense and is backed by years of social and behavioral research. Studies show that the chance of achieving a goal increases 33% if it is shared with others and by 72% if money is put on the line. I realised that combining both approaches could be a very effective way to help other people achieve their goals.

A Simple Formula

After six months of hard work, late nights, and lucky breaks, I am extremely proud to introduce Promise or Pay – a social enterprise that motivates you to uphold your commitments and change the world for the common good.

The formula is simple. You publicly promise to do something or pay a nominated contribution to a charity if you do not follow through.

Promise or Pay
harnesses social media to make your goal public and thereby strengthen the intention of keeping it and integrates charitable giving to ensure a win-win outcome is always achieved and you are left feeling good.

Either you keep your promise thereby benefiting yourself, or you contribute towards solving a pressing social problem via your donation, thereby benefiting others. As a result, Promise or Pay helps overcome the depressing and dispiriting feelings that arise when we fail to deliver on a personal commitment to change.

By combining social motivation with charitable giving, Promise or Pay motivates people to do the things they most want to do with their lives, while creating a more engaging and empowering way to donate to charities that are making a real difference in the world.

Make a Promise to Change

In a world that is fixated on perfection we need to remember that we all break promises, and that the important changes we make are usually achieved only after a number of mistakes and imperfections.

Life is too short to waste time feeling guilty so even when you break a promise using Promise or Pay you feel good knowing that you are helping worthwhile charities fund their good work. This allows you to maintain your momentum and continue running in the right direction towards your goal.

So the next time you get inspired and hear yourself saying “I really should…”, why not tell the world and put your money where your mouth is?

If you’re interested in getting involved with Promise or Pay - whether it is a helping hand, some advice, an endorsement, pro-bono services or straight up funding, feel free to shoot me an email at