Episode 16: Student Athlete Graduates to Found Non-Profit, VolunteerAid

Founder of VolunteerAid, Robert Liberatore was a student-athlete at Drexel, where he studied engineering in their co-op program. The co-op program allowed Robert to rotate school with hands on work experience in his major. Even though he enjoyed the concepts of engineering, he realized that he wasn’t getting the satisfaction out of the work.
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The Grind

Like a scene from a Disney movie montage, this kid was hustling. Racing from early spring soccer practices in the cold Philadelphia mornings, carving through the streets on his longboard to catch the train to work. It was a total rush. He mentions how he even got decked by a car one time on his longboard. But, running late for work he had no choice, Robert rolled right off the hood got back on his board and went to work.

At this point, Robert realized he had zero control over his time.

Robert’s time management takeaways from being a student-athlete:

Robert shares a story of him and a buddy relaxing on a Friday afternoon. With all of their school work completed, they watched YouTube videos for hours. After looking at the clock, Robert realized they had done the equivalent of an entire weekend of relaxing by Robert’s normal busy schedule, in just a few hours. This is when he realized how much work he gets done while staying busy.

“It was actually easier the busy I was”, Robert said. So he began to view education as a game where the objective was to get 100’s. It helped him focus, noting that “when its busier there is less time to think, or do nothing, or distract yourself”. Robert lays out a tip that he recommends to anyone needing that busy schedule to stay focused, “If you don’t have the urgency built in for you, find a way to establish a fake urgency in terms of your work”.

Finding and Providing Value

After moving from engineering, he decided to venture into real estate. Robert worked as a marketing admin before becoming a showing agent for a mega-team at his office. Why real estate? Robert had previously learned sales through Vector Marketing (Cutco Knives), and found the value in selling something he believed in extremely fulfilling.

After his last co-op, Robert was ready for adventure. He set out to Volunteer in Kenya. (This is where Robert mentions that the benefit of working in real estate was the flexibility, they allowed him to leave the job early to volunteer).

In Kenya, Robert would wake up early and go on a run with a local named James, a man Robert says is the most selfless man he has ever met. A native of Kibera, everything he does is volunteer focused. He coaches a youth soccer team, he helps cook and clean at the school, unconditional giving, often paying for his entire team to eat. With leftover money, James would buy the children food. He would go around and help people, and wouldn’t even eat himself often times.

After working out, Robert and the volunteers would work with mentally and physically disabled students. After lunch, James would bring Robert around to work on volunteer projects until the sunset.

Fundraising To Volunteer in Kenya

Hustle, before Kenya. Robert set up a GoFundMe page, he also went to different businesses and asked for corporate donations. This is where he realized the disconnect between volunteers wanting to give their time to volunteer, and lacking the funds to do so. Corporate donations could only go so far without the proper tax donation code that most non-profits use, 501c(3)

The wheels started turning.

At the time, Robert didn’t have enough time to set up a 501c(3), before he left for the Kenya trip. He tried by selling wristbands, and funneling the money back to volunteers. It didn’t work. Then they tried a “Feeding America” campaign, this didn’t work either. Could these solutions of worked? Robert says, they could have if they had been their goal“That wasn’t really what we were trying to solve when we had this idea, which is why it didn’t work”.

Finding a Solution

He came back from Kenya, and knew he was different. Looking at potential job options, turning down all of the job opportunities, he kept thinking of Kenya. Through contact with his friend James, Robert learned of a leaking roof that James mother was having. This is when Robert realized he needed to take action.

“I want to give people the opportunity to make as much of an impact as possible”

The culmination of personal pain points, having to fundraise for himself before the trip, and now seeing a friend in need with no way of Robert traveling to help, or donate. So he set up VolunteerAid.

VolunteerAid provides resources and funding for volunteers seeking a way to give back. Through partnerships, and fundraisers, VolunteerAid bridges the gap that Robert had seen. Volunteers want to help but lack the funding. GoFundMe leaves holes, and Robert wanted a full-fledged solution

Starting out, he put up some of his own money, and has been collecting donations. “Legal fees cost a lot”, he reminds me.

Robert sees VolunteerAid as a potential benefit employers can offer to their employees. Through partnerships with companies, VolunteerAid might fund volunteer trips for the companies employees. Helping corporations accomplish what they want to accomplish with social responsibility.

Hustle Round

The quote on Robert’s mind right now

“You’ll never know what you are capable of until you push your boundaries to the limit”

Robert ran the Philadelphia marathon without any training, as a mental challenge.

“Chase your dreams and you’ll become someone else’s” -Robert Liberatore

Most recently, he is proud of acquiring his 5013(c) status, and funding their first two volunteers through the platform.

An activity he has learned a lot from outside of soccer is rock climbing (or modeling).

College Tip: “Find a class that is absurd and sounds like a lot of fun and that might be scary…and take it”. Robert took several dance classes while in college, and had a blast. Ballet, ballroom dancing, and hip-hop. A fashion design major in one of his classes mentioned that their need for fitting models for their senior projects. It paid $15/hr and an opportunity was born. He got into modeling by taking the opportunity. It taught him how to carry himself, and how to fill up a room, and the details behind how to break these skills down. It broadened his horizons to what is possible.

Workouts

One of his favorite exercises are pull-ups and chin-ups.

“Something about doing squats gets your day going”, he says commenting “Sometimes they put you back in your place. I make sure I do them every now and then”.

A lot of mornings ill do a 100 pushups as fast as I can. do as many as you can, take a break, as many as you can, take a break, until you reach 100.

Follow Robert on IG @robert_lib and on Twitter @robert_lib on Facebook robert.liberatore.94

on IG @VolunteerAid and Facebook at @VolunteerAid non-profit and on Twitter and for some food porn check out Snapchat @bobbylib

Resources:

Tim Ferriss Podcast: A staple often mentioned on this show, almost every episode. If you haven’t heard it give it a listen you will not be disappointed (skip the first 4 minutes or so of ads).

Episode 15 with Chuck Katis was mentioned a few times, the iTunes link can be found here

Robert has been on a huge podcast kick recently. Listening to Tim Ferriss and Lewis Howes. And Drama (Rob Dyrdek’s cousin from Rob & Big) has a show called Short Story Long.

Robert’s post about The Importance of Why Not on WishDish

Organizations mentioned

VolunteerAid

Hands on Peru

Austlen Baby, the stroller company Robert worked for in his co-op. (I linked because of its interesting and unique designs).

Entrepreneurs Alliance

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