Setting up a Virtual NPLD Event
Jan 27, 2023 / by ASkalmusky
Laptop with canyonlands on screen sitting outdoors on table with coffee cup next to it

Virtual NPLD events engage volunteers and connect people to public lands from the safety and comfort of their home. These events can be excellent tools to examine the beauty and history of our public spaces from a different perspective, as well as welcome participants from distant locations who wouldn’t have been part of an event otherwise.

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.

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.

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. Virtual National Public Lands Day (NPLD) events are a great way to engage volunteers and connect people to public lands from home. 

Many federal, state, and local land management agencies offer virtual tours, historical reenactments, and other interpretative services online. The National Park Service (NPS) launched their “Find Your Virtual Park” campaign, which shares innovative ways to connect with national parks through digital opportunities and at-home activities. 

In addition to virtual tours, some organizations offer in-depth virtual volunteer programs. For example, history buffs can collaborate with the Smithsonian to make historical documents more accessible, and birdwatchers can help track bird populations and migration patterns with eBird. 

Getting Started with Virtual Events

Virtual events can be excellent tools to examine the beauty and history of natural spaces from a different perspective, as well as engage 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 and examples include:

  • Virtual walks or rides to beautiful places, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) library of virtual dives, which allow participants to explore marine sanctuaries and other water-based public lands sites online, and Virtual Yosemite, a groundbreaking interactive tour of Yosemite National Park, one of America’s most popular and spectacular natural environments. 
  • Educational demonstrations/trainings, such as Virginia State Parks’ How to Make a Bee Hotel video with Ranger Grayson at James River State Park and the Rock Creek Conservancy's videos that teach volunteers how to identify and properly remove invasive English ivy.
  • Wildlife livestreams and webcams, such as the San Diego Zoo’s live video cameras which feature a number of the zoo's more reclusive inhabitants—from koalas to penguins to their new baby orangutan. The National Zoo in Washington, DC, also has a number of wildlife webcams, including their popular Giant Panda Cam.
How Do I Organize a Virtual NPLD Event? 

The first step to organizing a virtual event is choosing which video conferencing platform to use. This TechSoup blog post has more information about a handful of popular platforms, as well as a side-by-side comparison to help you find the right one for your needs. 
Some of the most popular video conferencing platforms include:

  • Zoom
  • WhatsApp
  • Skype
  • Webex Meetings by Cisco 
  • Adobe Connect

Once you have selected your video platform and understand how to create an event, simply register your NPLD event on our website as usual. Make sure to mark your event as “virtual” and provide the correct meeting information so attendees will be able to view it properly! 

Will My Virtual NPLD Event Appear on NEEF's NPLD Map?

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

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