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Volume xviii, Issue 11 ~ March 18 - March 24, 2010

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Give Your Favorite Good Cause a Treat

For hard-pressed nonprofits, a web site’s sweeter than ice cream

by J. Alex Knoll

You’ve got your favorite flavor of ice cream, though you may have cut back on how often you get a cone in these lean times.

You likely have a favorite cause, a charity as close to your heart as Rocky Road or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Historically, Americans have been generous to their favorite causes, donating hundreds of billions of dollars a year over the past decade. But the economic downturn has hit charities, too, and hard. Charitable giving fell last year, according to the Giving USA Foundation, by more than five percent, a drop not seen in America in more than 50 years.

At the same time donations have deflated, demand for charitable services has ballooned by more than 30 percent, said Melissa Berman, of the New York-based Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Matthew Grasmick has come up with a way to bridge the gap. The young Annapolis entrepreneur is offering his web-design services to help bring one lucky Maryland-based non-profit online and into the 21st century.

“So many people in our communities rely on local charities,” said Grasmick, 24, who recently opened the doors of his web-design business in Eastport. “It’s really important to be a part of the community and to make relationships within town and with the local people. What better way to do it than by reaching out to the people in need.”

Calling it a Chance for Charity, Grasmick has set up an on-line poll for voters to determine the winner at

Sweetening the pot, one lucky voter will also win a prize — a one-on-one flight over Chesapeake Bay with Chesapeake Sport Pilot owner Jason Levin, including a chance to take the controls.

“We are proud to sponsor the special prize for the Chance for Charity contest to help support our local charities,” said Levin. “They give so much to us, it is only natural to give back.”

Maybe you think offering a web site to a charity is like offering an empty glass to someone parched.

Bess Langbein, executive director of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County would beg to differ. “We were fortunate enough to recently receive a grant to update and upgrade our web site,” Langbein said. “It is extremely important that our web site clearly and succinctly relays our mission, culture, programs and the value we add to our donors and our community.

“This is true for all nonprofits,” Langbein says, “and is especially important during challenging times when many donors are narrowing and refining the list of charities they support.”

So log on and vote for your favorite charity. You might find it as satisfying as a triple-scoop cone — but without any of the guilt.

The Chance for Charity contest runs through Thursday, April 15. Results will be announced Monday, April 19. The contest is open to all charities based in Maryland, and anyone may vote, although only once. Visit for complete details and rules.

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