Local Committee Formation Overview
Forming a Local Committee
The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) has created a Local Committee Handbook as a tool for communities interested in developing a Local Committee to focus on disability issues. The handbook includes basic information for the creation and maintenance of a group and encourages Local Committees to adapt the information to fit their own specific community needs and interests. Additionally, the guide offers suggestions for retaining and refreshing volunteer members of existing committees. The Local Committee Handbook is designed to offer information on a variety of organizing structures and programming ideas.
For a full electronic or hard copy version of the handbook, please contact us. Below, we offer some basic tips, guidelines and resources from the handbook.
The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) serves as a resource to develop new committees and support existing committees, and also works to strengthen the Local Committee network by focusing on areas of mutual interest. As a clearinghouse, the GCPD shares information about Local Committees and their activities based primarily upon committee reports that are provided to the GCPD at quarterly meetings.
Local Committees can provide valuable input to GCPD regarding recommendations for the Governor and Legislature on current issue areas:
- Emergency Preparedness
- Veterans Issues
GCPD can help provide answers to questions regarding Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and can provide resources such as ADA Roundtable presentations and regular survey data pertaining to people with disabilities. GCPD can also share information about key Texas laws covering dozens of topics and can help with access to local ordinance information. Also, the GCPD works with Local Committees and constituents to find answers to questions about services and programs.
Some other regular programs offered by GCPD include:
- Barbara Jordan Media Awards
- Lex Frieden Employment Awards
- The Scoop on Reporting about People with Disabilities DVD and handouts for journalism students
- Annual Texas NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) Poster Art Competition
- Distribution of free Texas NDEAM posters each October
- Informational handouts with resource information on a variety of topics
GCPD regularly publishes information such as:
- Texas Disability History
- Quarterly Calendar of statewide events
- Survey data on a various relevant topics
- Tracking information on current legislation
- Current demographic and legislative statistics
- Other reports involving disability issues
Creating a New Committee
It is essential when first establishing a Local Committee to gather as much information as possible regarding the community. Outreach to the local government, public and private employers, people with disabilities, and other organizations is vital to the successful launch of a Local Committee. Keep records on all significant information acquired, and discuss your findings with Governor's Committee staff, who can help determine whether the formation of a committee in your community is feasible and can guide you through the next steps.
An early decision should involve the definition of the potential geographic extent of the Local Committee - whether it should represent the city, the county, multiple cities or multiple counties. Keep in mind the current needs of the population and the available resources in the defined community. Once you have a concept of the population that the Local Committee will serve, begin to contact the appropriate elected officials to solicit help with ideas for organizing a committee and staff, and share ideas for funding. Although most Local Committees are affiliated with a government entity, such as the Mayor's Office (and there are distinct advantages to basing the organization around that relationship), some are created as independent non-profit groups, or are affiliated with a health care organization, a business with specific interests in disability issues, or other local groups, and others set themselves up as an independent non-profit organization.
When the viability of a Local Committee has been established, begin to recruit people from the community who are strongly committed to assisting in the development of a committee and are willing and able to volunteer time and energy to the project. Develop tentative committee goals that reflect a positive attitude and arrange for a discussion meeting involving a wide range of interested people in the community. Work with government and other local contacts to compile a list of individuals in the community who should be contacted and invited to the organizational meetings. Potential entities within a community to contact include local government officials, people with disabilities, businesses and associations, service providers, universities, schools, Chambers of Commerce, disability organizations and ADA coordinators. During these initial meetings, clearly define the needs of the community and set realistic goals, focusing on positive objectives. Be open to any and all input; ideas from all fronts allow the committee to best serve the community and accomplish its goals. Work to make all relevant contacts as personal as possible in order to ensure more enthusiastic participation from the community. As the group begins to schedule regular meetings, contact the Governor's Committee staff as well as local community leaders to help set tentative goals and objectives for the proposed committee.
If it seems that a new Local Committee in a particular area is not warranted or does not have enough support to build and maintain effectively, you can contact the nearest existing local committee to consider a partnership, or you may need to reconsider the originally designated geographic boundaries.
- Contact the Governor's Committee for resources and information
- Decide upon geographic extent of the committee (city, county, multiple cities/counties)
- Gain support from the community
- Contact elected officials (mayor, county judge/commissioner)
- Define community needs
- Develop a well organized plan
- Set initial goals and mission statement using positive language
- Choose a name that reflects the mission statement
- Develop promotional materials and determine best ideas for distribution
- Set agenda and organize meetings
- Recruit enthusiastic members
Viable support from the community is absolute necessary to maintain a successful committee. Develop a well organized but brief presentation for contact with local organizations to establish credibility and support. Develop easy-to-follow fact sheets or flyers about the status of people with disabilities and the needs of the community. All promotional material should in some way include the goals and objectives of the committee, and thereby serve as an effective communication tool.
The Local Committee can provide an effective partnership venue for all entities in the community that have an interest in providing increased access, communication, education, emergency preparedness, health, housing, recreation, transportation, veterans care, and workforce opportunities for Texans with disabilities.
As an extension of the Governor's Committee, a Local Committee is part of a network to connect the local, state and national levels. A Local Committee serves as a resource to the community and provides the public with insight and effective communication on issues of importance to Texans with disabilities. The Governor's Committee looks to Local Committees for relevant input on disability issues, particularly as they relate to pending legislation.
A Local Committee operates autonomously to develop a mission statement, goals, objectives, and a viable, relevant work plan. Local Committees pay particular attention to and support the Governor's Committee's current issue areas. The Governor's Committee envisions a state where people with disabilities have the opportunity to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity and self determination. The dynamics and organizational structure of each local committee work best when local needs are identified and met.
Some common purposes and activities of local committees include:
- Incorporation of disability issues into local planning
- Promotion of positive changes to policies and programs
- Providing educational opportunities (scholarships, resource directories, SCOOP on Reporting about People with Disabilities training and mentoring, etc)
- Promotion of equal access and the ADA (TAS/ADA seminars, etc)
- Providing recognition and awards (employment awards, media awards, accessibility awards, etc)
- Promotion of the employment of people with disabilities (career fairs, business summits)
- Helping city planners understand the need for accessibility
During the initial meetings, dialogue should begin with community leaders to discover specific needs within the community and to discuss relevant and achievable goals and plans as well as currently available resources. Goals, in order to be realistic, should be practically achievable and offer a broad appeal. From that starting point, members of the Local Committee can work together to develop a work plan and an outline that will guide future efforts. During these meetings, decide on a regular meeting day and time and a venue that is fully accessible.
- Identify membership by identifying potential members from:
- Texas Centers for Independent Living in your area
- Meals on Wheels
- Colleges and Universities who have an Office of Students with Disabilities
- Senior Citizen Clubs
- Churches, synagogues and mosques
- Area Agencies on Aging
- Disability Navigator's Program
- Community Mental Health Centers
- Local Veteran's Associations or Veteran's hospitals
- Local representative from the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
- City or corporate ADA coordinator
- Request affiliation and begin networking immediately
- Explain mission, goals and work plan
- Develop strategy to augment membership
- Understand committee structure and relationship to the Governor's Committee, ODEP and NCD
- Present information about disability issues and needs
- Identify relevant subcommittee membership and leadership
- Decide on regular meeting time and place
- Decide on an organizational structure such as a city/county advisory or a board (resolution, ordinance, bylaws or 501c(3))
Publicity and Promotion
Promoting the Local Committee to the community and continually raising its visibility is essential. Such efforts will result in increased community support as well as in recruiting members. Keep promotional materials uncomplicated and informative about overall goals as well as about specific meeting and project information. Try to create and include an eye-catching committee logo on all materials. Maintain frequent contact with members and supporters through emails, newsletters, listserve or social media. Create a website that is attractive and informative, and request a link to your site from appropriate related websites.
- Website with links
- Email to members and residents
- Newspapers (articles, announce upcoming meetings)
- Press releases to all local media
- Newsletters (distributed through Chamber of Commerce, civic clubs, etc)
- Word of mouth
- Speakers bureau
- Cable station community events calendar
- Fliers at community events
Funding is a key issue for Local Committees. However, the amount of money needed is determined by the goals and objectives set. As mentioned earlier, it is important to get in touch with local elected officials (mayor, county judge, etc) to see if they may be able to help by incorporating the committee into the local budget. Most Local Committees that are formally affiliated with the Mayor's office will be considered for funding through the city.
Events are a common way for a committee to fund projects, whether it is by holding a golf tournament to raise money for scholarships, or by hosting one of the statewide awards ceremony in conjunction with the Governor's Committee (the Barbara Jordan Media Awards and the Employment Awards), or by creating and hosting a local awards ceremony. Producing enticing events that are open to the public makes fundraising easier than having to continually solicit private and corporate donations. Local Committees are often able to get corporate sponsorship for events. Keep in mind that if the Local Committee is affiliated with the local government, the committee must comply with government guidelines; check with the government offices to see what limitations there are. Local Committees that are established as non-profit organizations have a bit more flexibility in fundraising. Please remember that, while fundraising is important, most Local Committees are able to operate on limited financial resources if their membership is committed and focused.
Maintaining clear and accurate financial records creates accountability and is essential for efficient planning as well as for the public's respect for the organization. Detailed budgets and on-going financial reviews will facilitate current and future planning efforts.
- Awards ceremony (local or in conjunction with the GCPD)
- Golf tournaments
- Athletic Events
- ADA seminars
- Corporate and private donations
- Online/mail donations; personal donations
- Workshops for area businesses (Chambers of Commerce)
- Job fairs (exhibitors' fees)
- Health fairs (exhibitors' fees)
- Silent auctions, especially in conjunction with other events
- Application for grants from government and non-profit organizations
- Carwashes and other local service-oriented fundraisers
- Membership t-shirts
For more information and examples of some Local Committees' formation, maintenance, and activities, please send a request for the Local Committee Handbook by contacting our office.