What Should be Kept and for How Long
If your organization is awash in paper and electronic records or those records are scattered among board members, it may be time to establish a document retention policy. The Internal Revenue Service recommends, as good governance practice, a written policy that identifies the record retention policies of staff, volunteers, board members and others. This should also include in writing a plan for destruction of documents and records.
The National Council of Nonprofits cautions that state regulations may differ, but offers a list of some documents that should be kept permanently. (They note that a retention policy applies equally to records kept in the cloud, on a server and in a filing cabinet.)
- Articles of incorporation and Determination Letter from the IRS
- Corporate resolutions
- Checks and year-end financial statements
- Insurance policies
- Minutes of board meetings and annual meetings
MissionBox, an online knowledge and connection hub for nonprofits, suggests in its lists that bank records, donor records and grant applications be kept for 7 years. An organization may choose to retain some documents permanently for historic reasons.
Both of these websites contain much more information plus links to IRS and state online resources that cover specific details. Each cautions that while using one of the suggested checklists is a good place to start, a written document retention policy should be tailored to the specific needs and location of your organization.