R is me, Robert Rosenthal. Thanks for visiting socialgoodR!

I’m a blogger, writer, traveler, and nonprofit fanatic and this is my home on the Web. Welcome!

If you already know me and just want to find out what happened to @socialgoodR and what I’m up to this year, click here to skip to the bottom. Otherwise, read on!

I work at the intersection of communities, cause communications, social change, and audience engagement. Today I work with VSO, an international NGO that involves skilled volunteers to address local development challenges, where I help to raise funds and develop programs. Before that I wrote a book on the future of volunteer engagement, and before that I headed communications and marketing for VolunteerMatch, the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network and an early pioneer (and still awesome leader) in bringing volunteering to the Internet.

Since early 2014 I’ve been living in Asia and exploring how communities, people and organizations make a difference. Before joining VSO, I spent a year serving as a representative of an awesome organization called GlobalGiving. As a volunteer field representative with GG I visited dozens of NGOs in Laos, Cambodia and Nepal. I also produced and emceed GlobalGiving’s first ever two-day conference on social good and online fundraising, which took place in July in New Delhi, India.

What makes me an expert?

Good question. I didn’t plan to be this person — I was only followed my interests!

Sun on the horizon in the Sonoran desert near Tucson.

Sun on the horizon in the Sonoran desert near Tucson.

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, a beautiful place. When I was in school in the early 1990s, I studied and wrote a lot about art and culture. I learn to play the guitar. I read a lot. After traveling the world and spending time in the Middle East, I began to be really interested in faith, spirituality and communities. So I moved to California, started interning at magazines, and tried to find a job.

It was San Francisco, 1996. Silicon Valley and the Internet were about to take over. And I was trying to sell the written word.

Early version of Netscape Navigator. Not much to see... yet.

Early version of Netscape Navigator. Not much to see… yet.

Going digital

Oops! That year a friend showed me Netscape Navigator. It held text and images on the screen, and it could be written anywhere, by anyone, and read anytime.  Even though no one had any idea what to do with it, it was amazing.

Well, from then on my “career” in print was pretty much over.  The world was changing, and I needed to change too.

Even in a changing world, most of us fundamentally want to be helpful

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And one thing I’ve noticed about the new connected era we live in is that it’s really NOT about technology at all. No matter what tools they use to connect with others, jerks will be jerks and those who want to be helpful want to be helpful.

Technology, I’ve found, is just an enabler of our efforts to be how we want to be. The impetus to be still comes from inside us. It comes from our feeling of ourselves, our responsibility to others, and our sense of purpose.

If the answer to “Why am I here?” involves other people, it’s natural to want to connect in different ways with others.

Pulling together in the Amazon. (c) Caroline Schiff.

Pulling together in the Amazon.

Nonprofits and NGOs help us connect most purposefully

That’s what I really love about the nonprofit world. The business world excels at creating markets, supporting innovation, and developing wealth. The government is good for keeping our food, air and water safe, ensuring the order of things, and keeping the peace. And nonprofit? They’re great at providing ways to get involved in the social and environmental issues that we care about.

Certainly, in my life it’s been the nonprofit libraries, museums, schools, and parks that have opened my eyes the most. The nonprofit independent press has opened my mind. Nonprofit communities of faith have opened my heart. And nonprofit action groups from all around the world have brought pressure to bear on business and government to make the world a better place.

Helping nonprofits build capacity with people power

And so now, after stints at dot-coms and web agencies I’ve worked almost exclusively the past 12 years with “capacity-builders” to strengthen the independent sector and local communities around the world. I’m interested in helping organizations of all kinds to become better gateways for involvement. I blog about these things here as well as my column at Huffington Post.

I also frequently present on these and other topics at events such as SXSW, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, Social Media Week, Netsquared, Nonprofit Boot Camp, Social Media for Nonprofits, the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, and conferences and events in Asia.

Here’s a link to my profile at Linkedin.

What I’m up to right now

Taking a break from the keyboard, with coffee and the enormous Kathmandu view.

Taking a break from the keyboard, with coffee and the enormous Kathmandu view.

Right now I’m living in Kathmandu, Nepal, near the historic area of Patan, one of the four ancient kingdoms that used to define the Kathmandu Valley. It’s a fascinating place to live and work, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be inspired, daily, by all that is around me.