Document Retention and Destruction Policy


Certain federal laws prohibit the destruction of certain documents. Not-for-profit organizations should have a written, mandatory document retention and periodic destruction policy. Policies such as this will eliminate accidental or innocent destruction. In addition, it is important for administrative personnel to know the length of time records should be retained to be in compliance.


The Document Retention and Destruction Policy identifies the record retention responsibilities of staff, volunteers, members of the board of directors, and outsiders, for maintaining and documenting the storage and destruction of the organization’s documents and records.

The organization’s staff, volunteers, members of the board of directors, committee members and outsiders (independent contractors via agreements with them) are required to honor the following rules:

  • Paper or electronic documents indicated under the terms for retention in the following section will be transferred and maintained by U.S. admin staff;
  • All other paper documents will be destroyed after three years;
  • All other electronic documents will be deleted from all individual computers, databases, networks, and back-up storage after one year;
  • No paper or electronic documents will be destroyed or deleted if pertinent to any ongoing or anticipated government investigation or proceeding or private litigation; and
  • No paper or electronic documents will be destroyed or deleted as required to comply with government auditing standards (Single Audit Act).


The following table indicates the minimum requirements and is provided as guidance to customize in determining your organization’s document retention policy. Because statutes of limitations and state and government agency requirements vary from state to state, each organization should carefully consider its requirements and consult with legal counsel before adopting a Document Retention and Destruction Policy. In addition, federal awards and other government grants may provide for a longer period than is required by other statutory requirements.

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Type of Document Minimum Requirement
  • Bank reconciliations
  • Correspondence (with donors and vendors)
  • Deposit Slips
  • Bank statements
3 years
  • Accounts payable ledgers and schedules
  • Contacts, mortgages, notes, and leases (expired)
  • Expense analyses/expense distribution schedules
  • Invoices (to customers, from vendors)
  • Payroll records and summaries
  • Personnel Files (terminated employees)
  • Withholding tax statements
7 years
Contracts (still in effect) Contract Period
  • Audit reports and year end financial statements
  • Checks (for important payments and purchases)
  • Correspondence (legal and important matters)
  • Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Insurance related records
  • Board minutes, bylaws, and charter
  • Tax returns and worksheets