Document management for nonprofits has to focus on record keeping. When money is changing hands, you have to be transparent in your processes. Document management for nonprofits should include document retention policies, adequate storage space, a virtual paper trail, and many ways to find documents in your system.
It’s not realistic to expect that a nonprofit will keep every document that is ever generated during its life. There’s simply too much data, even when you’re primarily using virtual space and not actual filing cabinets. However, as a nonprofit you will be expected to hold on to records a lot longer than many businesses. Additionally, wrongful deletion of a document is going to look a lot more suspicious for a nonprofit. One staff member accidentally letting a document go too early may be innocent, but in a special investigation, it could look like fraud.
Write your document retention policy in a formal document. Make sure that everyone who needs it has a copy. Keep everyone in your organization abreast, and make sure that it stays updated enough to fit your needs. In the event that anything is accidentally deleted or lost, having your documentation handy can help you show that it is not standard procedure in your nonprofit.
Finding room for all the paper documents you can’t throw away (yet) is tricky enough. You shouldn’t have to worry about having enough space to store all of your digital files. Many people who have upgraded to document management software appreciate the ability to integrate their information with cloud based technology. This typically means that you don’t run into a hard data cap. You don’t have to buy a new server or upgrade yours with extra space; you can just talk to the cloud storage provider and buy more room for your documentation.
You should always have at least two ways of finding each document in your document management software. Document management for nonprofits works best when you can account for errors. If any of your staff members misses a tag when they’re entering data into the system, multiple tags should allow you to find it. Even if the donation isn’t tagged with the event where the check was cut, you should be able to find it under the donor name or the date it was received. Avoid letting documents slip through the cracks.
When money is involved, you should track every interaction. Set up your document management software so you can create a paper trail. Every time the donation information is viewed, it should be logged. This will prevent anyone from catching peeks at things they shouldn’t see. In the event that confidentiality is accidentally breached, you’ll be able to respond right away—again, not during an audit, for example.
Document management for nonprofits focuses on organization and security. Establish your document retention policy early on, so that you have something to measure your performance against. Then add multiple ways to find every document, and a virtual paper trail to see who has had access to it. Finally, storage space should be adequate to your needs.