What’s your system for foundation recordkeeping? If you haven’t yet established a system for keeping good records, now is the time. This primer explains what documents to keep and for how long, and then describes how to organize your documents by creating a records management system.
Why Should You Keep Good Records?
As any foundation trustee or administrator knows, files tend to accumulate. A records management system helps you:
- Organize and maintain clean and compact records;
- Catalog documents for easy retrieval;
- Safeguard important documents;
- Get ready to make grant decisions;
- Prepare for board meetings;
- Create an institutional memory relating to board decisions;
- Develop a history of grantmaking to assess how your program is fulfilling your mission;
- Archive proposals received to develop a portrait of community needs;
- Prepare for an audit;
- Protect tax status and preserve trustees’ limited personal liability;
- Train new trustees on the foundation’s background, grantmaking, policies, procedures; and
- Preserve the foundation’s history.
A Foundation Recordkeeping System Involves:
- Sorting your documents into categories;
- Organizing documents and setting up files so you can retrieve documents easily;
- Purging inactive documents regularly to keep your files clean and compact;
- Archiving documents regularly that you no longer use but wish to keep for historical purposes; and
- Protecting your records.
It takes a little time to set up and maintain a records management system, but once you have it going, you will be efficient and organized. You’ll have the documents you need at your fingertips, find it easier to fulfill legal requirements and track progress toward your mission over the years, and you’ll save lots of time!
Keeping Good Records Table of Contents
- A. Why Should You Keep Good Records?
- B. What Are the Costs of Recordkeeping—In Money and Time?
II. RECORDKEEPING CHECKLIST: WHAT TO KEEP AND FOR HOW LONG?
- A. Documents to Keep Permanently
- B. Documents to Keep for Certain Time Periods
- C. Additional Documents Community Foundations Should Keep
III. ESTABLISHING A RECORDS MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
- A. Sorting Your Documents Into Major Categories
- B. Organizing Documents and Setting Up Files
- C. Purging Inactive Documents Regularly
- D. Archiving Documents Regularly
- E. Protecting Your Records
IV. HOW RECORDKEEPING CAN HELP YOU FULFILL YOUR MISSION AND PROGRAM
V. ESTABLISHING A RECORDS RETENTION POLICY
VI. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES APPENDICES
- Appendix A. Records You Need to Share With the Public
- Appendix B. About Audits
- Appendix C. Should You Go Paperless?
- Appendix D. Creating a Foundation Archive
- Appendix E. Sample Records Retention Policy