In honour of Wildlife Conservation Day, we speak to Megan Cromp, Director and Co-Founder of Key Conservation, an ingenious mobile app that supports conservationists to receive funding and global support.
Megan is a true entrepreneur, passionate about her idea and how it will change the world of conservation, she is an inspiration to all those who truly believe in what they do:
1. Tell us the idea behind Key Conservation and what problem it is solving:
Key Conservation is helping conservationists receive critical funding and increased global support through a mobile app that provides real-time video updates on day-to-day campaigns. The mobile app will have a scrolling feed that will update as needs from conservationists occur globally. The app provides three ways for conservation organizations to get help and three ways for supporters to give it.
The first feature allows supporters to give funds to a conservation project to help with immediate or long-term needs.
The second feature is Skilled Impact which enables supporters to give their professional skills. For example, if a patrol vehicle breaks down a mechanic could help fix it or a graphic designer could help a small conservation organization with a local outreach campaign. Tapping into these skills could save conservation organizations thousands of dollars while creating a lifelong connection with a supporter.
Lastly, the In-Person feature allows supporters to be alerted to real-time volunteer opportunities in their area through geo-based push notifications. For example, if conservationists need help pushing a vehicle out of the mud or want to alert local supporters that they have sea turtle hatchlings that they are releasing to the ocean, they can send out a push notification to supporters within a set radius. This feature updates automatically as people travel around the world, alerting them to the work being done within a customized range. So if you’re vacationing in Greece you will get local alerts from conservation organizations in that area while you’re there.
The coolest part of the app in my opinion is that after the contribution has been put to use the conservation organization will send a photo or video update to the supporter to show the outcome. This transparency allows supporters to see exactly what their support helped make happen which creates a stronger and more intimate connection that supporters want. To make the app even more fun we made it so supporters can earn keys for the different campaigns that they help which will hopefully encourage someone like an elephant loving supporter to give to a salamander project that they never heard about before.
Our earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction with as many as 30-50% of all species possibly going extinct by mid-century. Additionally, funding for science based research and conservation is currently being gutted at an alarming rate around the world. Conservation organizations are underfunded, lack support and usually do not have the time to wait on large fundraising campaigns or the personnel to run them. Supporters are also looking for more transparency in their giving and want to know where their support is going and what impact it had on the organization they are trying to help. Currently, there is not one place where conservation organizations can reach out globally in real-time to get help with money, professional skills and in-person. Likewise, there is not a place where supporters can be on the front lines of conservation seeing their direct impact of what is happening in the world right now. We anticipate that through our app conservationists will see an increase in support, funding and outreach which can then be used to tackle bigger issues like diversity and policy.
2. What is the technology behind the service and how did you develop it?
To develop the Key Conservation app I downloaded over 50 apps to learn about which features I liked and didn’t like and took this knowledge and began working on the design of the app. Over the course of a few years did research and surveys on the needs of conservationists and their supporters to ensure that we were building something that they actually wanted. With their feedback I then taught myself how to do UX/UI design and designed the Key Conservation app in Sketch. For the development of the app I researched to find the right development team who I then hired on to make the app a reality. With their guidance we decided to go from developing native apps for each iOS and Adroid to using the React Native platform. By using React Native we are able to develop an app for both iOS and Android at the same time which will not only save us both time and money but will allow us to send out updates and bug fixes all at once so we can run everything as smoothly as possible. We are currently about half way through the development process and working on many exciting features everyday.
3. What major challenges did you face in the development stages of the app?
The biggest challenges that I face when developing the app was that I had never done it before and I didn’t know anyone else who had either. I had to start completely from scratch and dive into an entirely new world that I knew nothing about. I taught myself how to do everything from learning how to design an app to hiring a team of developers to creating a website and nonprofit. The amount of work it has taken to get to this point is significant but by learning everything myself I now know the ins and outs of all aspects of my organization which helps me be a better leader because I know exactly what we are working towards.
4. You have partnered with Conservation Optimism & Conservation X Labs. Why are these partnerships important for Key Conservation and what do you hope they will bring?
We look at our partnerships as an extension of the Key Conservation ecosystem. Each of them is a way for our conservation organizations and their supporters to take their passion, ideas and skills to the next level. For example, Conservation X Labs has a powerful platform called the Digital Makerspace where people from all over the world can bring their ideas to help conservation efforts and talk with experts in their respective fields about if their idea could be made possible. If the idea is viable they can then learn how to get the support and funding to make it happen. Within the Key Conservation app conservation organizations can put the problems that they cannot find solutions to on their profile where supporters from all over the world can see if they have any ideas. If a supporter has an idea they can they submit it through a link that takes them to Conservation X Lab’s Digital Makerspace where they can then collaborate to make it a reality.
We have also partnered with Conservation Optimism so we can help bring empowering moments of hope to the world. Stories from the field that have been historically lost in the daily shuffle will have a new home on the Conservation Optimism platform, where they can then be amplified globally. The featured organization of each Conservation Optimism story will link back to the Key Conservation app so supporters can easily continue to learn more about the organization, see what challenges they are currently facing and find the tools to help in real-time. Instead of just reading about these stories supporters will be able to take their hope to do more and turn it into action. We are also discussing potential ways to connect more experienced conservationists to become mentors to young conservationists in the field in real-time through the app.
5. What are the plans for taking Key Conservation to the next stage and what does 2019 hold in store for you?
Our plans for the new year are to continue with the development of the app which will include in-field testing with our pilot projects and beta testers over the first few months of the new year with the hope of completing the development of the app in the spring/summer. Our goal is to raise enough funding to be able to develop all of the features of the app and not just the MVP so we can fully utilize and develop the community around the Key Conservation app to help conservationists. We have many exciting initiatives planned that will expand the potential use of the app that I am really looking forward to sharing once we get them all ironed out so stay tuned!
6. How did you fund the idea and are you still looking for more investment?
When we first launched the idea for Key Conservation we did so with an Indiegogo campaign. That campaign helped us raise our first set of funding. After our first campaign our supporters have contributed significantly to our continued development but it has been the partnerships that we have developed that have provided us with our largest set of funding. This has allowed us to make significant strides in our app development which is very exciting. We are very close to our target but we are still need to raise more funding to complete the app. To see where we are in our funding and how to contribute check our this link: https://www.keyconservation.org/donate
7. What would you say is the single most important thing to consider when starting your business?
If you are going to start a business you have to believe in the idea wholeheartedly. You will be speaking and working on it constantly and your passion will keep you going when you would want to give up.
8. How can we get involved?
We love for people to use their skills to help in ways that they feel passionate about so while the app is in development we set up the Skilled Impact Network where people can sign-up to use their skills to help us build Key and help conservation organizations who will be on the app. You can sign-up here: https://www.keyconservation.org/volunteer
9. What worries you about the future of wildlife conservation / what gives you hope?
I am concerned that we are not providing the people and organizations working to stop extinction with enough support and funding to achieve their mission. My hope is that by giving people around the world actionable steps to contribute to conservation efforts we can fill the gaps between traditional support which will add up to significant impact.
10. If you had one message you wanted the world to hear, what would it be?
There is always hope and if we work together each of our small or big contributions will add up to make a significant difference and change the course we are on.
Key Conservation is recruiting volunteers! If you’d like to join the team, check out their open positions here.