On Site Volunteer Services (OSVS) was founded in 1994 by Neil Giacobbi, a Cornell University student, as a unique-student run nonprofit agency. OSVS is based in Ithaca, New York, and each year manages 2000 volunteers as they serve the needs of more than 40 local agencies. OSVS leads groups of volunteers on service projects such as painting, landscaping, pre-construction work and more. In addition, they manage volunteers for civic events, festivals and celebrations.
Beyond serving as an effective and efficient leverage for nonprofits to utilize volunteer labor to complete necessary physical projects or staff events and leading individuals in enjoyable and productive opportunities, OSVS builds communities. Ithaca, New York is a university town with Cornell University and Ithaca College as the two largest employers in the region. The “town-gown” relationships are at times confrontational. OSVS serves as a positive influence by leading Cornell and Ithaca College students, staff and faculty in hands-on projects in downtown Ithaca and rural Tompkins County. As a result, members of the Cornell and Ithaca College communities are introduced to the greater Tompkins County area.
While at other universities student organizations may lead volunteers in service, OSVS is unique in that it is an independent student-run 501(c) 3 agency not under the authority of the university. Students from both of the colleges work part-time as OSVS staff-members. These student-staff members coordinate projects, recruit and manage volunteers, perform all human resources, financial management, public relations and fundraising activities. OSVS is lead by an Executive Director who is a full-time student and advised by local advisory councils – a diverse collection of university, civic and business leaders – and is governed by a Board of Directors – comprised of alumni and friends of OSVS. Staff members at OSVS participate in their Leadership Development and Management Training Program and receive extraordinary opportunities to develop important professional skills. OSVS alumni work in many different sectors and remain committed to serving their communities.
OSVS is also unique from the one-day, large service programs such as “Into the Streets”, in that it performs multiple service projects each week of the academic year and special projects during the summer months.
Lastly, OSVS is also innovative in that it is a resourceful agency attracting a diverse funding base. The agency receives funding from the local government, residents, businesses and foundations, in addition to attracting funds from student groups and alumni of both Cornell University and Ithaca College who no longer reside in the area. Contributions from this latter group are another way that OSVS helps to engage the university and their alumni in supporting the roughly 70,000 dollars a year of federal funds through the federal work-study system. Rather than having students earn these funds in ways that benefit the university they attend, OSVS employees utilize this valuable financial aid component to make a difference in the community in which they live and study.