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Policy on retaining original documents

  • 1.  Policy on retaining original documents

    Posted 10-26-2021 02:31 PM
    As we review our document retention policy in Advancement for gift receipting, endowment instruments and deferred gifts, I couldn't find a discussion or sample in the archives that directly addressed 2 questions I have:

    - Our current policy is to scan and link all relevant documents to the donor's record. Are there any document types which must also be retained in their ORIGINAL, hard copy form?  If so, what documents?  

    - We have a couple of drawers of historical donor files, most of which haven't been touched in 10+ years because the donor is deceased and the file "inactive".  Eventually we'll need to go through these files to confirm if they've already been scanned and linked. In the case that we come upon documents that haven't been scanned and linked (which is likely the case), does anyone have guidelines or best practice on what we should scan for posterity, and what can be shredded?  Gift receipts, donor letters, newspaper clippings. We may have to come up with our own guidelines but if someone's been down this road and has guidelines that work that they can share, I'd appreciate that.


    Gwen Donev
    Director of Advancement Services
    Gustavus Adolphus College

  • 2.  RE: Policy on retaining original documents

    Posted 10-26-2021 02:41 PM
    Many years ago the IRS ruled that electronic copies are sufficient for tax purposes.  Unless the document is a legal contract of some sort you can destroy any documentation that's been scanned.  Although I ensure that material has been backed up.

    I am not aware of any legal requirement for retention of any original material, although state laws could come into play here.  I would ask counsel about legal contracts and such.

    There's never a reason to save original or scanned copies of receipts and letters since you always have electronic copies of those.  For your deceased files, I would destroy everything unless it represents a legally binding - and still in force - contract, or anything that clearly is of historical value.


    John H. Taylor
    John H. Taylor Consulting, LLC
    2604 Sevier St.
    Durham, NC   27705
    919.816.5903 (cell/text)

    Serving the Advancement Community Since 1987