How much more does it cost to do something after it needs to be done? A whole lot more than paying up front. And what if what you were buying actually was an investment that paid dividends the earlier you invested in it? That’s how developers need to think about community relations: an investment that will result in not only better outcomes, but also reduced costs.
Why you should factor community relations costs into your property development budgets
In property development (as in any business) you can’t expect 100% end-to-end control of 100% of your costs. But you can absolutely control your community relationships and the costs to establish and nurture them.
Plan to budget money and time for community relations, just as you do for labor and materials. The costs of this work 6-12 months upfront can be a fraction of your possible expenses further down the line when you haven’t made the commitment to the community where you’re building.
Your early investment in strong community relations can save you tens of thousands of dollars in:
- Redesigns, because you gathered community input before presenting project concepts
- Litigation to defend against potential lawsuits and appeals
- Construction and labor costs if/when approvals are delayed
- Maintenance of a property that is sitting idle or underutilized
- Sitting on materials inventory that you’re not putting to work
- Future development due to damaged reputation
- Additional commitments & community benefits to sweeten a sour deal that could have been sweet from the start
- Extra studies to prove your good faith response—instead of establishing your good faith from the start
- And of course, stress, panic, extra consultants, and the like because you’re repeatedly scrambling at the last minute.
I can’t overstate it: These costs are avoidable, if you make the investment in community relationships.
What you, the property developer, should do next:
Start now. Research the community, making connections, building networks, forging alliances. Earlier is always better.
Be there. Become a familiar, approachable presence—not just at public meetings but in the everyday public places in the community.
Go beyond outreach. Climb the Community Activation Ladder of Success, rising above mere outreach and committing to true community engagement and activation.
Make your action plan. For inspiration and proven community relations best practices, read about the 15 Common Community Relations Pitfalls for Developers (and How To Avoid Them).
Community relations: An investment for the long term.
Community relationships are like fine wine: As they age they become richer, more mature, and full-bodied (or in this case, more authentic). And like some wines, they’re investments. But you can’t just let them sit.
When you keep your community relationships strong during and after your project planning period — and well beyond — you create allies and advocates who will be there for you in the future for the next project, the one after that, and so on. That’s ROI you can’t put a price on.
Another investment to consider: Crafting and fine-tuning your Community Brand—the way you want to be perceived and regarded in the communities you’re targeting. Get started with your free Community Brand Audit.