Hosting a park volunteer event is an empowering act that flexes your leadership skills, helps our parks and engages new people. Learn how with this step-by-step guide.
1. Pick Your Park & Choose Your Audience
- Opting for a nearby national park is the easiest choice. But, don’t be afraid to select one that is off the beaten path as it will expose your participants to something new.
- Consider your participants. Are you keeping the event limited to those in your neighborhood, school or church? Or are you planning to open this up to the broader community?
2. Contact the Park
Typically, the park’s phone number will be listed on its website, so start there.
Determine whether the park can accommodate your group of volunteers. The age, skill level and physical ability of your expected participants as well as the anticipated size of the group will influence whether the park has a suitable project.
Choose your date wisely. Consider whether the park has a preferred season for events or whether your suggested date is over a holiday weekend. Is it the hottest/wettest/snowiest time of the year? Do you have enough time to advertise the event?
Other questions to ask:
– Will your participants need to sign photo releases and/or liability waivers?
– Will the park entrance fee apply to your group?
– Do you need any permits to perform the work?
– Will the park provide any tools or supplies (e.g., work gloves, trash bags, etc.)?
Don’t forget to exchange contact information with your park contact.
3. Begin Planning
Name your event. Be snappy, sassy or succinct, just make sure the name honestly conveys the nature of the service event.
Consider transportation. Will you arrange a carpool or shuttle to the park? Does the service site require participants to hike a certain distance?
Prepare a packing list of materials for yourself & for your attendees. Factor in the materials that the park can provide or that you can reasonably ask participants to bring.
Commonly Needed Supplies
First aid kit
Registration & waiver forms
Create an online RSVP form.
– Having participants RSVP helps you anticipate group size and allows you to contact the participants to provide event details. Use Sign-Up Genius, EventBrite or Google Forms.)
– Collect the participant’s first and last name, phone number, email address and age (if needed).
Draft a promotional flyer.
– Include typical event details in your promotional materials (Who, What, Where and When).
– Be truthful with your event description. Prospective participants need to know whether they’ll be doing hard labor or hiking long distances over steep or uneven terrain.
– Include your contact information.
– Use images/icons and bright colors to design your flyer. And, pick a font that is easy to read.
4. Promote Your Event
Depending on your audience, share your event with your networks and then go broader. Use social media, post fliers on community/school bulletin boards, reach out to groups the park suggests, or approach a local media outlet to advertise.
Don’t forget to email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know about your event.
5. Update Your Participants
Email them in the days leading up to the event.
– Remind them of the meeting location and time, the duration of the event, the projects the group will tackle, the clothing they need to wear (long pants and closed-toe shoes, perhaps) and the items they should bring (e.g., water and a hat).
– Share other details, like the cost of the park entrance fee, the need for adult chaperones for those under 18 and the weather forecast for that day.
– Remember to add your contact information in case they have questions or get lost on their way to the event.
6. Prepare for Your Event
Find or purchase any needed supplies (refer to the packing list you made in the planning phase). Don’t forget a camera and a first aid kit!
Touch base with the park
– Remind them of your upcoming event, confirm that there will be NPS staff presence and provide your RSVP count.
– Ask whether anything has happened that impacts your event (e.g., road work, wildfire, flooding, etc.).
7. Host Your Event
Arrive early to prepare the site, meet with NPS staff and problem-solve.
Set up a station for participants to register, get supplies and sign waivers.
Be visible (wear a nametag, bright vest, etc.), stay near the meeting spot and greet your arriving participants.
Introduce yourself to the group, thank them for coming and then introduce the park staff.
– NPS staff should detail the project for the day and provide a little information about the park.
Support NPS staff during the duration of the event, answer participant questions, handle issues and pitch in with the work.
Encourage participants to take breaks and drink water.
Step back and take a few photos of the participants in action.
Take a moment at the conclusion of the event to reflect. Remind volunteers of their impact, ask them to share stories or lessons learned, and be sure to thank them. Then, thank the park staff.
8. Follow Up
Email your participants and the park after the event to thank them for their involvement.
– If you have photo releases from the participants, share the photos you took or post them on social media. Tag NPCA, too, so we know about your great work.
– If the park gave you details about the overall impact of the service event (pounds of trash removed, length of trail rebuilt, number of buildings repainted, etc.), share that information with the event attendees.
Can’t host your own event? Plug into one of NPCA’s.
Check NPCA’s event page to see if we have an event planned at a park near you. Then, consider expanding the event’s reach by inviting your network of friends and family.
The information contained in this guide is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an endorsement, advertisement or sponsorship by NPCA of any particular event(s).