iGorilla is a charitable iPhone app that lets you track the work the Virunga National Park is doing — with your donations — to save mountain gorillas in the Congo. With your $4USD App Store purchase, the park gets a $2.80 donation, and you get mobile access to field journals about the gorilla families that the park is working with.
What’s great about the iGorilla app is that in exchange for your contribution you are able to actually see what people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are doing for the gorillas, and why they need your support.
Upon downloading the iGorilla app, I began to follow the Kabirizi gorilla family. After browsing photos and biographies of the gorillas, I navigated to the Kabirizi family blog, where field workers document the plight of this endangered species. While there are exciting stories of new births, many of the stories in the blog address the harsh reality of life for gorillas in the Congo, who often get caught in snares or go missing.
The BBC reports:
The mountain gorilla population has been reduced by poaching, civil conflict, deforestation and disease. But conservation work is helping to secure the remaining 720 animals, with an estimated 211 of the great apes living in the park.
Ultimately, the Virunga National Park hopes you will feel some kind of attachment to these gorillas whose stories you carry around in your pocket that you will touch the iPhone app’s ever-present “Give” button to contribute more to the project.
The iGorilla app is an extension of the community that has emerged at Gorilla.cd, where users can interact, donate money, and take other actions to save the gorillas.
A Model for Non-Profits
The Virunga National Parks runs a great online campaign. Their website and blog serves to document the plight of the gorillas and the work that is being done to save them, while offering visitors the chance to not only donate, but to see how their donations are put to work.
What if all non-profits developed iPhone apps to engage sympathetic people on the go? Although not the first charity-based iPhone app, iGorilla is a good model for savvy organizations that see the increasing relevance of the mobile web.
iGorilla demonstrates how iPhone apps can be used for social and ecological good. Non-profits take note.
Room for Improvement
What is sorely missing from this app is social media integration. The Gorilla.cd website gives visitors the opportunity to share blog posts, videos and pictures on Facebook and via email, but the iPhone app lacks this social sharing capability.
It would also be great to see the park add features to give users more opportunities/reminders to donate. What if I was able to get a pop-up notification each time a post relating to my gorilla family was added? What if blog posts outlined the problem and exactly what materials are needed to fix it, then offered a chance to donate funds for these specific items. This would contribute to the transparency that the park has already cultivated on its website, where people can pitch in to specifically purchase petrol, sacks, and support for gorilla orphans as well as park rangers.
Overall, I am glad to see this charitable organization taking their message to the App Store and using the iPhone as a tool for social good. I hope to see more non-profits follow suit.