Taking a page from organizations that offer members discounts, a residents' association in the northern end of Anne Arundel is offering more than the usual neighborhood advocacy and updates on zoning: The Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association has added discounts at area businesses.
"Think of AAA and AARP, where membership means more than just having an organization that looks out for your interests," said Rik Forgo, association president.
AAA and AARP are among large groups that attract members with deals that include travel discounts and savings on gadget purchases. Forgo said the Linthicum-Shipley group also wants to draw more members — and their annual dues.
This month, the association is embarking on a partnership with the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. Every month, a few businesses will provide a coupon or other discount for Linthicum-Shipley members. In exchange, the association gives free advertising for those businesses in its newsletter and LSIA's Facebook page.
"This is a way for us to give our members something that they may not be able to get elsewhere, and it is an incentive for people who are not members to become members," Forgo said.
Besides, he said, "A thriving local business community is great for the residential community. You want the local businesses to do well."
To claim their discounts, people must prove membership through a newsletter copy — paper or email. Other membership perks will include community columns in the newsletter.
The Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce jumped at Forgo's idea.
"The business is getting free publicity in the newsletter. The business is going to get a new customer," said Fran Schmidt, chief executive officer of the chamber. And shopping at local stores keeps money in the community, she said.
"We want to keep some of this money in the communities. We want to support the local businesses that have been here for years and the ones that are startups," she said.
The business group covers a large swath of Anne Arundel County, from its northern borders and hotels around Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to the northern edge of Severna Park.
That leaves Schmidt hopeful that the deal with Linthicum can become a model, and that other community associations will want to work out similar arrangements with their local businesses.
"And then they will come to us and say, 'Hey, you are doing this with Linthicum-Shipley. Why aren't you doing it with us?' " she said.
Burster's in Glen Burnie, one of the first participating businesses, is offering free Italian ices to LSIA members, and sees this as a way to help the community and help the ice cream shop, said manager Diane Montier. The 10-year-old shop needs community support, she said.
"Advertising is expensive, and if a community group wants to barter with us, sure, I'm interested in talking to them about it," Montier said.
Forgo cooked up the discounts idea to try to meet the rising tab for printing and mailing LSIA's newsletter to members. The cost recently drove the nonprofit group into the red — despite emailed newsletters substituting for the print version for many members and sales of T-shirts and other items helping the bottom line.
Membership in LSIA is voluntary — just under 500 of 2,800 eligible households are LSIA members currently, though membership has reached 600 at times. The annual dues are $15.