Individuals, organizations, institutions and businesses create and receive various records in a variety of formats that record decisions, actions taken, activities, events and transactions. These records serve as proof of such decisions, activities, actions taken or not taken, or reminders of things to be done. As time passes, these records, if preserved, provide future generations with a picture of that individual, organization, institution, or business. This picture will be as complete as the information on the record which has been preserved. In the course of our business we tend to want to keep things for the future, but with all that we create or receive, what do we keep? What is going to help paint that picture of who we were and what we accomplished?
Most importantly, we should keep records that document decisions that have been made and actions that have been taken. In addition, records that describe the mandate and responsibilities of the organizations are also important. Examples of these are:
- Regular meeting agendas and minutes, and any reports presented or discussed at the meetings and associated with the minutes.
- Meeting agendas, minutes and reports presented at the Annual General Meetings (AGM) and any reports that are presented at the AGM.
- Correspondence received and sent out, in any format, written, or electronic.
- Memoranda, including a copy of emails that have details of organizational business, discussions, and decisions.
- Financial reports and financial statements that summarize the finances on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, or annually).
- Annual reports.
In addition, records that provide information about mandates, governance documents, events should be kept. For example:
- Bylaws and any amendments to the bylaws that have been made
- Photographs – that record an event, or activity. For photos, it will be important to make sure that the person who took the photo is noted; the date the photo was taken; the activity or event taking place; where it was taken, and who is in the photo. If you are making notes on the back of the photograph, please use a pencil as ink will eventually bleed through the photo.
- Planning documents for projects and special activities and events, including budgets
- Articles for periodicals or newspapers – but if you would like to include a newspaper article it would be best to photocopy it onto acid free paper. Newsprint will eventually discolor and will also affect the documents on both sides of a file.
- Posters or event advertising
- Press releases
- Films or videos that were created for the organization or about the organization
- Records that generally are not considered of enduring value and are not usually kept are:
- Receipts and invoices,
- Ledgers (usually financial reports will capture and summarize the finances of an organization)
- Blank forms
- Transitory records, for example bills of lading, receipts, carbon copies and correspondence that does not pertain to the business of the organization or does not document a decision or action to be taken.
- Printed materials or copies of printed material that exists elsewhere and is not developed or created by the organization for example a magazine or newspaper, catalogues, book or guide to filling out a grant form etc.)