NPLD Site Manager Manual: Planning

From Idea to Action

Holding a National Public Lands Day event is incredibly rewarding! To ensure your success, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to making it all come together.

Selecting a Site

The first step in hosting a National Public Lands Day event is to select a site to serve as the event location. National Public Lands Day is a celebration of American’s public lands, so we encourage you to work with a local federal, state, or municipal land management agency to select an appropriate public lands site for your event. NEEF can assist you in connecting with an agency in your location.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a site for your event. Before selecting a site, think about the goals of your NPLD event. Do you plan on highlighting a special VIP speaker at your event? If so, site capacity may be an important factor. Do you want to recruit an underserved segment of the population? If so, then accessibility may take priority.


  • Is the site accessible by public transit? What is the nearest subway stop? The nearest bus stop?
  • How far is the site from the nearest major city or town? How long of a drive is it to get to the site? Is there parking available?
  • Is the site family friendly? Are there activities for children? Are the service projects appropriate for kids?


  • How many volunteers can the site accommodate? What is the minimum number of volunteers needed to complete the project?
  • What is the maximum number of people that can be kept busy throughout the event?
  • Are there restrooms available on site? Is there running water? Are there picnic tables or open areas to accommodate lunch?
  • Is there a staging area, podium, and/or sound system to support VIP speakers?

Service Project

  • Is there a volunteer project needed at the site? Can the project realistically be completed in the set amount of time?
  • What prior expertise does the project require from staff? From volunteer leaders? From volunteer participants?
  • Are there special tools or supplies required to complete the project?
  • What types of conservation outputs could you share after the event? For example: pounds of  trash collected, square feet of invasive plants removed, miles of trails restored, etc. NEEF’s NPLD post-event survey can serve as a guide to what types of measurements you can use.

Partnership Opportunities

  • Does the site provide an opportunity to work with a local partner, such as a community member who can offer enthusiastic support of the event?
  • Does the site provide an opportunity to work with a new key partner that may lead to relationship-building opportunities? Is there a partner who could supply tools or equipment for the work?
Building an Event Team

Organizing and executing a successful NPLD event can take a single determined Site Manager or an entire event team with each member responsible for a different component of the event. It all depends on the size and scope of your National Public Lands Day Event.

Below are some suggested roles that you can use to begin building your NPLD event team.

Suggested roles and responsibilities for NPLD event staff:

  • NPLD Site Manager – This individual leads the overall management of the National Public Lands Day event. This person should be listed as the main point of contact on all event communications.
  • Project Leader(s) – Project leaders act as volunteer supervisors during the event. They are responsible for leading groups of volunteers in project work, coordinating tools, keeping track of time, answering questions, and remaining with that group throughout the course of the event. The person(s) in this role should have experience leading volunteer groups and should be intimately familiar with the type of project they’re leading (trail maintenance, tree planting, invasive removal, etc.)

    Risk Management best practices require that volunteer events have experienced leaders to support volunteers at a minimum 1:20 ratio (one project leader for every 20 volunteers).
  • Marketing or Communications Coordinator – This individual coordinates marketing and promotional activities for the event. The person in this role should be listed as the main point of contact for any media inquiries related to the NPLD event. Specific responsibilities may include: drafting press releases, inviting local elected officials, and posting event information to social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
  • Outreach Coordinator – This individual coordinates the community engagement efforts for the event. The person in this role should act as the liaison between internal event staff and external partners in the community such as schools, universities, local businesses, and community-based nonprofits. Specific responsibilities may include: designing and executing an outreach strategy, cultivating and maintaining relationships with local partners, and building an outreach databases of individual volunteers. This person can also assist with day-of-event logistics, such as managing the volunteer sign-in table and welcoming partners.
Building an Event Budget

The cost to hold an NPLD event varies depending on the size of the event, number of leaders, and project materials. Determine the fixed and variable costs to hold your event. Fixed costs are costs that do not change based on the number of attendees. These costs are calculated as a total amount. Variable costs are costs that change based on the number of attendees. Determining what is essential and what is “nice-to-have,” helps you make any necessary alterations to meet your budget.

High-cost items such as t-shirt and water bottle giveaways are not always needed, but many variable items can significantly impact the success of the event. For example, providing lunch for volunteers helps make your event accessible to underserved youth, hiring leaders to meet risk management ratios keeps safety at the forefront, and supplying equipment supports agency partners and makes more types of projects possible.

Refer to the sample events budget below to get an idea of items to consider including in your budget.

NPLD Event Budget - 75 Volunteers

Fixed Costs

Item Quantity Cost Total
Emergency Medical Kit 1 $30.00 $30.00
Portable Microphone/Speaker
(for opening ceremony)
1 $110.00 $110.00
Printing Event Flyers 1 $20.00 $20.00
Printing Event Signage
(parking, restrooms, etc.)
1 $40.00 $40.00

Variable Costs

Item Quantity Cost Total
Work Gloves for Volunteers 75 $2.00 $150.00
Wheelbarrows 5 $17.00 $85.00
(cubic feet)
10 $4.00 $40.00
3 $30.00 $90.00
Breakfast: Granola Bars and Fruit 75 $2.00 $150.00
Water Station 3 $15.00 $45.00
Lunch: PB&J Sandwiches 75 $0.44 $33.00

Total: $793.00

Organizing an event can seem like an incredibly overwhelming task. With so many things to plan, it is helpful to have a guide to the timeframe to complete each. The NPLD Planning Calendar can help you align your work with some of the most common milestones.

NPLD Planning Calendar
May - September
June - July
  • Establish roles & responsibilities (project leaders, outreach coordinator, marketing coordinator, etc.)
  • Develop an event budget
  • Secure any necessary permits
  • Identify local partners to support event
  • Send “save the date” emails to potential NPLD volunteers and event partners
  • Invite VIP guest speakers
July - September
  • Recruit volunteers (event flyers, social media, social media)
  • Download NEEF’s Public Lands Engagement Activity Guides
  • Engage local media outlets; send press release/media alerts
Early September
  • Prepare site for event
  • Conduct site visits with project leaders
  • Develop event documents: safety briefing, emergency response plan, and run of show
National Public Lands Day
Fourth Saturday in September
  • Have a great NPLD event!
  • Take photos, collect quotes and share them with NEEF
  • Collect conservation impacts (acres of land restored, pounds of trash collected, etc.)
Early October
  • Complete the NPLD post-event survey
  • Thank volunteers and partners