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Virtual Volunteer Engagement

What is Virtual Volunteering?

Virtual volunteering refers to volunteer activities completed, in whole or in part, using the internet and a home computer or other internet-connected device such as a smartphone or tablet. It allows anyone with internet access to contribute time and expertise to nonprofit organizations, schools, government offices, and other agencies that utilize volunteer services.

Using viewfinders from NOAA

The practice of virtual volunteering dates back to the early 1970s with the launch of Project Gutenberg, a national volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works. For the last 50 years, thousands of volunteers have spent countless hours digitizing and compiling literary works in the public domain. As of today, Project Gutenberg hosts an electronic library of over 60,000 free e-books. 

While physical volunteers will always be in-demand, increased use of telecommunications technology has made virtual volunteering an emerging trend. Many people actively search for virtual volunteer opportunities they can complete while at home or work due to time constraints, personal preference, disability, or other obligations that prevent them from volunteering onsite. This type of volunteering helps agencies further cultivate community support—especially in times of great disruption such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Volunteering on Public Lands

Your Virtual Parks from National Park Service

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.

As we adjust to our “new normal,” it’s important that we continue to support the public lands and waters that make this country special. 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.

Still not sure if virtual volunteering is right for you? Visit our Virtual NPLD Events page to see more real-life examples of innovative virtual events on public lands.

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Setting Up a Virtual Event

The whats, whys, and hows on putting on a one-of-a-kind virtual National Public Lands Day.
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Examples of Virtual NPLD Events

The beauty of a virtual National Public Lands Day event is they can take on any form. Check out these examples.
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Group picture of the volunteers at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens NPLD Event in 2016

Site Manager Promotional Toolkit

Check out our collection of promotional content including photos, badges, graphics, and more!
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NEEF Event Locator Map

Find Your Event

Use our interactive map to find your registered NPLD event.
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NPLD 2020 Virtual Signature Event
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Our Virtual Signature Event

Watch our Virtual Signature Event where we kicked off another successful NPLD!
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Group picture of NPLD volunteers at Rock Creek Park

National Public Lands Day

Mark your calendar for NPLD: Saturday, September 24, 2022!
Park Ranger at Coldwater Spring, MN for NPLD

Register your NPLD Event

Here's where to register your NPLD event and find resources to develop and promote it.
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Volunteers at a Rock Creek Park NPLD Event

NPLD for Volunteers

Here you can find information on how to volunteer at various NPLD events happening throughout the country and online.
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Girl scouts at the NPLD event at Rock Creek Park

National Public Lands Day FAQ

Want to learn more about National Public Lands Day? This FAQ section has all the answers!
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