Volunteer Planning: If The Plan Doesn’t Work, Change The Plan

By Charlene Vickers

Charlene Vickers,
Director of Community Investment, AmeriHealth Caritas, independently volunteering at a vaccination site.

Director of Community Investment, AmeriHealth Caritas

Facing the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, AmeriHealth Caritas has continued to work to promote the health, safety and well-being of its employees, members and the communities it serves across the country.  When AmeriHealth Caritas, like many companies across the nation, transitioned to work-from-home in 2020, its employee volunteer program Care Crew found new ways to remain vibrant by converting normally in-person volunteer activities to a virtual environment.

With more than 7,300 employees, serving 4.5 million members in 13 states and the District of Columbia, AmeriHealth Caritas has a vast and varied community footprint. A large percentage of our employees live in close proximity to our headquarters in Philadelphia, so the Greater Philadelphia Corporate Volunteer Council became a hub of information for our teams as we collaborated with our regional counterparts and amended strategies to respond to COVID-19. Now, more than a year later, Care Crew continues to thrive and evolve in a virtual state.

Empathy and Flexibility Drove Impressive Outcomes in 2020

We are a mission-driven organization that believes care is the heart of our work. Our employees were quick to react to the needs of our more than 1,000 nonprofit partners across the country while following COVID-19 safety practices in the community and at home.  AmeriHealth Caritas reported 55% of our employees completed 42,354 volunteer hours, an increase of 3% in 2020 in comparison to 2019.  Our 2020 volunteer work resulted in:

  • $704,000 Pledged to more than 1,040 nonprofits across the country
  • 3,680Handmade masks provided to frontline employees
  • 32,091 Meals distributed to support food insecurities
  • 83,683Cards and letters of encouragement distributed to community partners


2021 Strategy:  Building On Success and Adapting To The Unexpected

Though 2021 begins with vaccine-driven optimism and hope, we face continued uncertainty. When will our nation achieve herd immunity? When will COVID-19 restrictions be lifted? What do we continue to do, stop doing, or do differently this year?

Care Crew took a pragmatic approach to 2021 planning with the mantra: “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan.” Care Crew 2021 strategies focus on:

  •  Building on current virtual successes.
  • Enhancing and improving virtual resources and tools.
  • Developing quarterly scenario plans that are designed to adapt or mitigate barriers presented by the pandemic.
  • Developing post-pandemic phased approaches to hosting safe community events.
  • Prioritizing our need to communicate frequently with nonprofit partners, business leaders and employees.
  • Continuing ongoing research of industry trends in volunteerism.


Understanding and Innovating To Meet Needs

Listening to the needs of the community and providing a platform to share nonprofit stories is imperative. In 2020, more than 3,000 AmeriHealth Caritas employees attended virtual sessions with our community partners. These sessions were designed to bring

greater awareness of our work with community partners and to connect our employees with virtual volunteer efforts.

Events included:

  • The launch of a virtual Afternoon Tea and Conversation series. These conversations included market leaders, nonprofit agencies and elected officials who share the AmeriHealth Caritas mission of helping people get care, stay well and build healthy communities.
  • Monthly volunteer spotlights featuring nonprofit organizations that shared information about their missions and virtual volunteer opportunities. Partners include: United Way’s Vello Program; the Philadelphia Foundation’s Key Skill Hub; Mighty Writers; Lupus Foundation of America; Girls on the Run; TechGirlz; Philly Food Rescue; Big Brothers Big Sisters Beyond School Walls and Mentor 2.0 programs; Compass; Achieve Now; Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) of Greater Philadelphia; Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center; Project Home; March of Dimes; WOAR; Autism Speaks; and American Red Cross.  Each session was paired with a virtual volunteer activity.

The Care Crew team held direct conversations with more than two hundred of our leaders across AmeriHealth Caritas markets to increase employee volunteer engagement. Each conversation began by asking, “How can the Community Investment and Care Crew teams serve you better?”

The annual employee giving campaign kicked off with virtual thought leadership sessions that included speakers from the United Way, AmeriHealth Caritas leadership and nonprofit partners with the goal of supporting solutions to address social determinants of health.   The panel discussions included topics such as what “stay at home” means for low-income families and an anti-violence town hall with local students and business leaders.

As we navigate through 2021, it is our intent to continue and expand these important conversations and activities.

Continued Resilience

Despite the pandemic — or, in some cases, because of it — AmeriHealth Caritas launched new volunteer campaigns throughout 2020:

  • Mask-making for healthcare workers.
  • Virtual volunteerism search tiles on the volunteer portal.
  • New pen pal opportunities with seniors and hospital patients.
  • Call Center support opportunities.
  • Virtual mentor programs, tutoring opportunities, walk campaigns and clothing drives.
  • Meal and food delivery programs.

By hosting monthly campaigns, we continue to connect our colleagues to meaningful volunteer roles. In February 2021, Volunteer Match reported over 500,000 virtual volunteer opportunities.  Much like the nonprofit sector, most organizations have figured out ways to volunteer virtually. The opportunities are abundant and require resilient commitment to serve and stay connected. Care Crew will continue to connect with our fellow employees, to re-think and re-design our approaches to helping our communities.

If there is a singular takeaway for AmeriHealth Caritas during an unprecedented time in our country’s history, it is our employees’ passion for fulfilling our mission and helping those in need.


Deidra Charles participating in virtual AARP Meal Packaging Challenge.