Once you have settled on the needs assessment method, partners can next work together to recruit participants from different stakeholder groups. The pilot sites included adults with disabilities and those who are Deaf as well as their families, staff from partner agencies, law enforcement and criminal justice staff, and service providers who work with adults with disabilities, those who are Deaf, and victims of crime (including sexual assault and domestic violence). To recruit these participants, the sites used the following strategies:
- Make personal contacts. Before sending out invitations and fliers, contact the specific people, agencies, or groups you are targeting. Use your partnership’s existing networks and talk to disability groups and organizations about ways the needs assessment process will benefit the populations they serve as well as the community in general.
- Make use of existing gatherings. In an ideal world, persons with disabilities would be fully integrated in our society. At this time, however, many persons with significant disabilities, particularly intellectual and developmental disabilities, still live, work, and play in segregated settings. Ask to hold a confidential focus group at a local center for independent living, group home, disability support group, accessible recreation center, residential facility, or federally subsidized apartment complex where low-income persons with disabilities live.
- Broaden the search. Some adults with disabilities gather together by choice. If you are getting a response only from persons with one type of disability, look for other disability-specific groups, such as mental illness support groups, self-advocacy groups for persons with intellectual disabilities, a Deaf club, and support groups for persons with specific disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, lupus, traumatic brain injuries, and so forth.
- Target the instrument to the audience. The sites found that professionals with time constraints (e.g., law enforcement officers) were more likely to respond to surveys than to requests for focus groups or individual interviews. Conversely, because the topic of interpersonal abuse is a difficult subject that may best be broached in person, focus groups and individual interviews are sometimes a better fit for survivors who have experienced crimes as personally intrusive or humiliating as domestic violence or sexual assault. One-on-one meetings and smaller focus groups may also be more accessible than surveys for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities or people with limited English skills.
- Remind people, if you can do so safely. When setting up focus groups or interviews, ask if people would like you to follow up with a reminder call or e-mail a day or two before the meeting. Be careful about phone calls or e-mails if the person is living in an abusive environment, as this can present serious safety issues.
- Remove barriers. Ask people if they need assistance with transportation or childcare to participate.
- Provide incentives. Provide whatever incentives you can manage: food, gift cards, money, and so forth.
Incentives can really help you recruit participants. One pilot site got a strong response by giving out gift certificates from local grocery stores to persons with disabilities who participated in focus groups or interviews.