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NPLD 2020: Setting Up a Virtual Event

This year, National Public Lands Day will look a little different. While public lands sites will still be able to register in-person events in accordance with local regulations, NEEF will also be supporting virtual events designed to engage volunteers and connect people to public lands from the safety and comfort of their homes.

By offering virtual NPLD events, NEEF remains committed to our mission of connecting people to public lands and encouraging their use for education, recreation, and health—even if we can’t do it in person. During these unprecedented times, virtual events will provide the public with More Ways to Connect to Nature.

Are virtual volunteer events effective?

Yes! The rise of virtual volunteering has opened new pathways for Americans to engage with public lands and waters without leaving home. Federal, state, and local land management agencies are increasing their investments in virtual engagement opportunities, and a large number of public lands sites across the country now offer virtual tours, historical reenactments, and other interpretative services online.

Recently, the National Park Service (NPS) launched their “Find Your Virtual Park” campaign. Through this campaign, NPS shares innovative ways to connect with national parks through digital opportunities and at-home activities. Another federal agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has updated and released a library of virtual dives that allow participants to explore marine sanctuaries and other water-based public lands sites online.

In addition to virtual tours, some organizations have launched in-depth virtual volunteer programs. For example, history buffs can collaborate with the Smithsonian to make historical documents more accessible. Birdwatchers can help track bird populations and migration patterns with eBird. And citizen scientists can contribute to counting penguins at Zooniverse.

Getting started with virtual events

NPLD events are perfect for maintaining and improving public lands, but they also serve to highlight the beauty, history, and value of these special places to the community. Virtual events can be excellent tools to examine the beauty and history of these spaces from a different perspective, as well as welcome participants from distant locations who wouldn’t have been part of an event otherwise.

What would you like participants to know about your site? What can you show them that they wouldn’t normally have the chance to see? How could they contribute to this public lands site virtually?

Some suggestions include:

  • Virtual walks or rides to beautiful places
  • Educational demonstrations
  • Q&A sessions
  • Citizen science projects requiring data aggregation and entry (for example, NASA’s GLOBE Program)

These are just a few suggestions—don’t be afraid to get creative! Visit our Virtual NPLD Events page to see more real-life examples of innovative virtual events on public lands.

How do I organize a virtual NPLD event?

Since COVID-19 has kept many of us home, it is likely you have already taken part in a video conference or chat. The internet is full of resources that will walk you step-by-step through the process of setting up a virtual event. Some of the most popular video conferencing platforms include:

  • Zoom
  • WhatsApp
  • Skype
  • Google Hangouts
  • GoToWebinar
  • Adobe Connect

This TechSoup blog post offers a handy comparison of available video conferencing tools to help you get started.

Will my virtual NPLD event appear on NEEF's NPLD map?

Yes! We have included the option to register a virtual event on the NPLD map so potential volunteers and participants will be able to find both in-person and virtual events easily. 

We are also offering sponsorships for virtual events this year to help you get yours up and running. Find out more by visiting our 2020 NPLD Virtual Event Sponsorship page.

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