Non-Profit Records Management Tool Kit

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1 Non-Profit Records Management Tool Kit January 2013

2 Contents Introduction Generally Accepted Record Keeping Principles What is a Record? File Maintenance Classifying a Record Remember: s are records!

3 Introduction The purpose of this tool kit is to provide general records management guidance to the non-profit housing sector. The guide includes the generally accepted records keeping principles and the definition of a record, file maintenance, how to classify a record, and manage . 3

4 Generally Accepted Records Keeping Principles ARMA International published eight Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles to foster general awareness of recordkeeping standards and principles and to assist organizations in developing records systems that comply with them. For each of the eight record principles, relevant, objective, complete, and measurable criteria have been specified to guide the development and evaluation of an organization s records management program. 1. Principle of Accountability An organization shall assign a senior executive who will oversee a recordkeeping program and delegate program responsibility to appropriate individuals, adopt policies and procedures to guide personnel, and ensure program audit ability. 2. Principle of Integrity A recordkeeping program shall be constructed so the records and information generated or managed by or for the organization have a reasonable and suitable guarantee of authenticity and reliability. 3. Principle of Protection A recordkeeping program shall be constructed to ensure a reasonable level of protection to records and information that are private, confidential, privileged, secret, or essential to business continuity. 4. Principle of Compliance The recordkeeping program shall be constructed to comply with applicable laws and other binding authorities, as well as the organization s policies. 5. Principle of Availability An organization shall maintain records in a manner that ensures timely, efficient, and accurate retrieval of needed information. 6. Principle of Retention An organization shall maintain its records and information for an appropriate time, taking into account legal, regulatory, fiscal, operational, and historical requirements. 7. Principle of Disposition An organization shall provide secure and appropriate disposition for records that are no longer required to be maintained by applicable laws and the organization s policies. 8. Principle of Transparency The processes and activities of an organization s recordkeeping program shall be documented in an understandable manner and be available to all personnel and appropriate interested parties. These eight principles provide the baseline for establishing a good records management program. 4

5 What is a Record? A record is defined broadly to include all recorded information regardless of physical format: A record includes books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, papers and any other thing on which information is recorded or stored by any means whether graphic, electronic, mechanical or otherwise. What are administrative records? Administrative records document and support those functions that are common to all non-profit housing providers, such as the management of financial, personnel, facilities, and property, material or information systems. Administrative records also document common management processes, including committees, agreements, society s corporate records, legal records (e.g., mortgage, insurance, and contracts), accounting and purchasing files, budget files, personnel records and policy and procedure records. Administrative records may exist in a number of physical formats, including paper files, microfilm, diskettes, magnetic tape, electronic data processing records, and video or audio tapes. What are operational records? Operational records relate to the operations and services provided by the non-profit housing provider in carrying out the functions for which it is responsible. Operational records cover many types of operational records stored in various physical formats. The agency responsible for the records has special needs and requirements for its filing system. Each agency must establish standards for maintaining their files. An example of operational records may be applicant and tenant files, surveillance camera video tapes, detailed maintenance files, operating agreements. What is a transitory record? Records of temporary usefulness that are not integral to an administrative or operational record. Transitory records are not regularly filed within a standard filing system, and are only needed for a limited period of time for completion of an action or preparation of a document. Transitory records are not required to meet statutory obligations or to sustain administrative or operational functions. An example of a transitory may be, Is this morning s meeting still on? or an exchange to make lunch plans. s which include the go ahead on a major project, a final report, policy advice, and so forth, are not transitory. 5

6 File Maintenance A practical approach to managing files is to think about: Who does what? How are file folders used? What goes on the file labels and file lists? Office Procedures Establish and document records management processes for your office. Ensure that filing and maintenance procedures reflect the requirements for file retrieval, control, and maintenance of your particular office, as these do vary from office to office. Assign responsibilities. That is, who opens the mail, is it logged, who distributes it, who creates files, who sends files off-site, is there a records co-ordinator for your office? Decide if the filing system should be centralized or de-centralized (e.g., one or two persons have control). File Folders Use letter size file folders and file backs (i.e., sheet of cardboard with prongs). File backs are recommended to separate years within a folder, rather than using a new expensive folder for each year. File folders can be used for project or contract type case files where you would not necessarily have to separate out the years. File folders should have an end tab to allow for the use of numeric and alpha colour coded labels down the right edge of the folder. This is a quick way to identify files on the shelf. File Folder Labels These include generic information: File numbers and titles Location Open and Close Dates File List The file list is a listing of every file created by or currently in use within an office. An accurate file list is an essential tool, as it documents the creation and existence of records. It assures the integrity and authenticity of records and may serve as legal evidence. 6

7 Maintaining Files If you maintain a central file system, you should use charge-out guides when an employee removes files to work on at their desk. This way you will never lose track of a file. Keep sensitive and confidential files locked up. In consultation with your records coordinator, remove files that are no longer active. This activity is often referred to as culling or purging. Once they are closed, box and send files to off-site storage. If you fall behind in the annual purging, it will build up and the task will become overwhelming. File Retentions A records schedule is a timetable describing and governing the lifespan of a record from the date of its creation through the period of its active and semi-active use, to the date of its disposition. The records schedule identify records of permanent value; protects the operational, audit, legal, and fiscal values of all records; and permits the routine, cost-effective disposition of inactive records. Retention schedules will provide for the timely destruction of records that are no longer required and ensure that records of enduring value are retained. Keeping your files current makes the task of filing easier. Establish retention schedules for each records series. 7

8 Classifying a Record Classifying a record involves determining its subject or function and assigning a file identifier. The integrity of the classification system depends on a careful assessment of records to be classified to ensure that identifiers are assigned appropriately and consistently. So, you have a piece of paper with your notes on it and you need to know what to do with it! 1. Knowing these three things will put you on the right road: What needs to be kept as a record and filed? Whether this is something new or part of an existing file. How to classify it. 2. You will keep a record for one or more of these four purposes: Legal (Personal Information Protection Act, potential litigation) Evidential (a record that certain steps were taken) Historical (indication of how a process has changed over time) Financial (to document financial transactions) 3. Read the document all the way through to identify the subject. The subject is not always obvious and is often indicated in the last paragraph or sentence. Do not read the re: line only as frequently the record is about another subject entirely, or other subjects are discussed. 4. If a document deals with more than one subject and should be placed on two or more files, cross reference the document by writing all the file numbers on the upper right-hand corner of the document, photocopy the required number, and place on the appropriate files. If the document has more than one page, photocopy the first page only and place the copies on the appropriate files. You now have the main concepts to help you decide if your document is a record that needs to be kept. 8

9 Remember: s are records! has electronic records that need to be managed according to the same standards as paper records. This means you need to classify, retain and dispose of electronic records including establish naming conventions and performing periodic maintenance. Employees should be aware that all residing on your society s computer equipment is subject to requests and privacy protections under the provisions of the Personal Information Protection Act and for litigation purposes. presents special challenges for record keeping: It is often not read thoroughly It can be too easily composed and sent It includes large volumes of transitory records It is left to be cleaned up by other staff Here are some practical ways of managing records that are consistent with the principles of good records management: Organize your folders Periodically move s to the shared drive, or print to file. Determine which records are transitory and get rid of them. Don t use as a filing cabinet File as you go and don t let your filing pile up Sometimes easier said than done, but always worth it. 9

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