In this digital age, it is very easy to hold on to documents indefinitely – correspondence, memos, bank statements, employment applications, expired insurance policies – you name it. The steps go something like, “Read. File. Forget about it. Repeat.” Many of our files will end up in the paper graveyard, never to be retrieved again. The likelihood of being able to quickly find something we really need quickly becomes harder as we amass more and more files. But how can we decide what to keep, how long to keep it, and what can be discarded? Turn to none other than your organization’s document destruction retention policy.
Besides the need to keep down the clutter, there are a number of legal reasons why having such a policy is important. One, the IRS inquires about this type of policy on the Form 990. Two, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as well as under numerous other regulations impose document retention requirements. You can cut your organization’s legal risks by preventing important documents from being destroyed unintentionally and by giving staff guidance on how long certain records should be kept to be in compliance with certain legal and regulatory requirements.
Did you know? The Standards for Excellence® program’s educational resource packet, “990 Policy Compendium” includes a sample document destruction retention policy. The packet is free and available to Standards for Excellence Institute® members. It is available through the members only section of the Standards for Excellence Institute® website. Hard copies are also available upon request.