Document Retention Policies for Nonprofits

Adopting a written document retention policy ensures that staff and volunteers follow consistent guidance about document destruction and that document destruction/deletion practices become a regular business practice of the nonprofit.

Developing a document retention policy may seem overwhelming at first, but think of it as simply a record of what types of documents the nonprofit must retain and for how long. The policy should specify that the nonprofit will also adhere to a regular business practice of document destruction according to the schedule referred to in the policy or adopted by the nonprofit from time to time.

Document retention policies are one of several good governance policies that the IRS highlights on the IRS Form 990 by asking whether the filing nonprofit has adopted a written record retention policy. IRS guidelines can be found here

Memo for guidance on document retention and destruction and a sample document retention policy (Florida Association of Counties).

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) requires boards to be aware of and accountable for the acts of an organization. Also, the adoption of a document retention policy sets guidelines and facilitates directors' fulfillment of the duty of care, establishes transparency and ensures compliance.


Florida Statute requires the following:

496.418 Records.—Each charitable organization, sponsor, professional fundraising consultant, and professional solicitor must keep for a period of at least 3 years true and accurate records as to its activities in this state which are covered by ss. 496.401-496.424. The records must be made available, without subpoena, to the department for inspection and must be furnished no later than 10 working days after requested.

617.1601 Corporate records. —

(1) A corporation shall keep as records minutes of all meetings of its members and board of directors, a record of all actions taken by the members or board of directors without a meeting, and a record of all actions taken by a committee of the board of directors in place of the board of directors on behalf of the corporation.
(2) A corporation shall maintain accurate accounting records.
(3) A corporation or its agent shall maintain a record of its members in a form that permits preparation of a list of the names and addresses of all members in alphabetical order by class of voting members.
(4) A corporation shall maintain its records in written form or in another form capable of conversion into written form within a reasonable time.
(5) A corporation shall keep a copy of the following records:
(a) Its articles of incorporation or restated articles of incorporation and all amendments to them currently in effect.
(b) Its bylaws or restated bylaws and all amendments to them currently in effect.
(c) The minutes of all members’ meetings and records of all action taken by members without a meeting for the past 3 years.
(d) Written communications to all members generally or all members of a class within the past 3 years, including the financial statements furnished for the past 3 years under s. 617.1605. 
(e) A list of the names and business street, or home if there is no business street, addresses of its current directors and officers.
(f) Its most recent annual report delivered to the Department of State under s. 617.1622.  
History.—s. 106, ch. 90-179; s. 69, ch. 93-281; s. 49, ch. 2009-205.

Keep these records permanently:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Audit reports, from independent audits
  • Corporate resolutions
  • Checks
  • Determination Letter from the IRS, and correspondence relating to it
  • Financial statements (year-end)
  • Insurance policies
  • Minutes of board meetings and annual meetings of members
  • Real estate deeds, mortgages, bills of sale
  • Tax returns