You probably deal with a large amount of paperwork if you work at a nonprofit.  Keeping track of certain documents is an important task at any nonprofit.

Among the most important are the documents that established your nonprofit organization—articles of incorporation, by-laws and the minutes of the organizational meeting. Board members should also be familiar with these three documents as they are the history of your organization.

Your Articles of Incorporation is the legal document that created your nonprofit corporation. This document must be filed with your state office overseeing corporations. The By-Laws of your organization are your operating guidelines. The organizational minutes of your nonprofit is a record of the meeting itself, the people who were there and the first group of officers of the organization.

Read more here Organizational Documents

Your IRS nonprofit determination letter is another very important document! Keep this in a safe place and maintain a supply of copies (paper and digital). This letter comes to you after all the legal documents to form your nonprofit are filed. It will give the IRS nonprofit code under which your organization operates (usually 501(c)3). Sometimes organizational changes occur that generate an updated or revised IRS determination letter, and this becomes the one to keep.

If for some reason you cannot find this letter for your organization, you can check Publication 78 on the IRS website or write the IRS for a copy.

The history of your nonprofit is maintained, in part, in the business records of your organization. Corporate minute books are a common way to maintain the minutes of board meetings, changes in legal documents, restructuring efforts and evaluation activities. It is a wealth of information useful to the people who will work at or manage your nonprofit long after the founders are gone.

Keep this information at hand for board member or new staff training or to use as a reference for past organizational activities.

A best practice for nonprofits is a regular and thorough review of your organization’s documents. This review should be looking for policies, procedures or other documents that need to be updated. It should also include some research and discussion around documents your organization may need to add.

If you need to develop a specific policy or other document, Board Director is a great resource for sample documents. Sample Documents

You will keep many of your nonprofit documents for as long as the nonprofit exists; other documents can be destroyed after certain periods of time. It is best practice to have a document retention policy detailing how long certain documents will be maintained. This policy might also cover how confidential documents and records will be protected if that’s a need of your organization.

Nonprofits working in the social services or medical industries must pay particular attention to securing patient files as it is required by the federal HIPPA law.

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