Donor Records Retention Policies

Upon searching online, we found some articles that provide advice about nonprofit records retention policies. These are mainly for general 501c3 recordkeeping, not donor recordkeeping specifically. Though donor records are mentioned briefly in some of these. We will keep looking for a source that can tell us what specific physical donor files must be retained (copy of donation, thank you letter, etc.) as we did not find this level of detail in the articles.

Professional accountants can also be helpful with tailoring a records retention policy for your organization.

It is common for organizations to retain both physical and digital files. I think a Cloud platform is a good choice for saving records however to be completely safe from loss, paper copies should be kept as a backup. Also, a Cloud platform should have a cybersecurity policy in place to prevent theft of donor information.

It is most common for organizations to retain records for seven years (not including some higher level documents which must be retained permanently). See links below for a list of permanent documents.

Center for Nonprofit Excellence:

https://www.centerfornonprofitexcellence.org/news/record-keeping-right-way/2015-6-19

Council of Nonprofits:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/document-retention-policies-nonprofits

AFP Global:

https://afpglobal.org/chapter-record-retention-guidelines

https://afpglobal.org/sites/default/files/attachments/2018-10/DonorBillofRights.pdf

https://afpglobal.org/sites/default/files/attachments/2019-03/CodeofEthics.pdf

Other:

https://www.missionbox.com/article/351/document-retention-for-us-nonprofits-a-simple-guide

https://www.smartfile.com/blog/nonprofit-document-retention-policy/

Of course, the IRS will have guidance on this topic as well, especially with regards to tax compliance.

IRS Form 990 instructions

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4221pc.pdf (Private Charity)

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4221pf.pdf (Private Foundation)

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