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Starting Early: The Key to Successful Community Engagement

The fear of NIMBYism often discourages real estate developers from embracing the community engagement process. There’s a tendency to want to delay community outreach to avoid having to confront opposition. 

Yet starting outreach early is the most effective way to facilitate productive dialogue and engage the community in a meaningful, beneficial way. 

By engaging early and often, everyone wins. Real estate teams build better projects with fewer bumps in the road. Neighbors play a part in shaping the future of where they live and work. 

Still not convinced? Here are a few things to consider:

Reaching the whole community takes time.

The most tried and true method of building support for a project is to engage all community members. The people who are often heard during a rushed engagement process tend to be whiter and wealthier than the rest of the neighborhood. The voices heard are far from representative of the area. 

The result? The vocal minority dominate the conversation – commonly in opposition of the project. 

By engaging residents over a long period of time, you’ll reach your silent supporters – those who would support and benefit from your project but often go unheard.


Rumors spread when the facts aren’t out there. 

By the time many teams are ready to engage the community, many neighbors have already formed their opinions and are organizing to oppose the project. These efforts are often grounded in misconceptions or misunderstandings, but once they’ve spread in the community, it can be impossible to get them under control.

By engaging from the early stages of the process – before project plans are filed – project teams can correct misinformation before it sabotages a project. 


Trust can’t be built once it’s been lost. 

Clear and frequent communication should be a priority from the start. It’s important for community members to have access to accurate, up-to-date information and for two-way dialogue to take place. By developing engaging questions for community members and responding to their concerns, real estate teams can build trust and establish their reputation within the community. Without it, trust can’t be built.

Having a team’s reputation damaged can be devastating. Starting engagement early is an important step in preventing that. 

Our community engagement experts have experienced over and over again the benefits of engaging early and the repercussions of failing to do so. Teams who do it right face fewer setbacks and receive feedback that can better their project. 

For more strategies to build community support, check out The New Community Outreach Playbook.

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