Keeping accurate records of the organization is paramount to many program areas within that organization. It also serves to add credibility to the organization and a level of professionalism. Accurate record keeping and administering forms and documents eases transition periods between executives, staff and volunteers in general.
A well laid out filing system, whether electronic or paper, can save time and resources in any size of organization.
Accurate and timely reports are often required by many stakeholders including the general membership, volunteers, funders, board, staff and community partners. Non-profits typically have annual reporting to complete, and being able to access accurate records and information quickly and easily can lessen the workload.
As you embark on a system, or review your existing one, consider these functions and how they apply to our organization:
- Determine what information you need to retain
- Research and understand the legal and ethical regulations surrounding collection and retention of information. Canada has two federal privacy Acts – The Privacy Act (1983) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDEA); and Alberta has two as well – The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). Volunteer Alberta’s website is an excellent source of information about privacy Acts.
- Access to the records
- Disposal of records
- Safekeeping of sensitive records
- Record retention policy
In addition to the traditional “filing system” considerations, you need to determine how your organization will keep track of its’ members and volunteers. Depending on the size of the organization and the database you wish to retain, you may choose a system in a word processing database such as Excel or Access, or one somewhat more advanced. Some database management systems incorporate the ability to create and manage events as well.
Document Retention Policies for Non-Profits: National Council of Non-profits