Organising your records

Created: July 30, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Updated: August 28, 2020 | By Community Resource Kit

Keeping good records helps you manage your organisation effectively and efficiently, and helps you make sound decisions. Deciding how to keep and maintain records, and who has access to them, is important if an organisation is to function well.

Keeping accurate and up-to-date records:

  • allows you to control your finances better i.e. up-to-date records help to determine if your group is making enough money to cover its expenses
  • provides evidence of whether your organisation is being run well, which may help to judge how well you are performing generally
  • makes it easier for potential funders to know whether to fund your group or project
  • makes filing tax returns (and GST returns) easier and quicker
  • keep your organisation within the law by maintaining accurate records
  • means accounting and any audits will take less time.

What is a record?

A record is any information that's written or entered on paper, computer or other media. It includes information that you either must by law keep, or want to keep for a period.

Start at the start

As soon as you form your group, you should start keeping records. It is much better to keep accurate records as you go, rather than trying to work backwards at a later date. When you draw up your organisation's founding policies, create a record-keeping or document management policy.

Decide how you are going to store your records. You can use an electronic filing system on a computer or a paper-based system. Whatever the system is, it should be reliable, accurate, secure and easy to use. If it is a computer-based record system you must have secure back-up of your files, preferably off-site. It is good business practice to keep hard copies of invoices, faxes, emails, and other material that is also stored on your organisation's computer system. In some circumstances, keeping physical records is also required by law.

Classifications of records

There is a wide variety of records that an organisation should keep you need to keep enough records to calculate your income and expenses and to confirm your accounts.

The following is a guide to suggested categories of records that you may need to keep, together with examples of each. This list can be used to form the basis of a filing system, however it isn't intended to be a complete or mandatory list what you keep in the end partly depends on the type and size of your organisation. Be aware that there are records you must keep by law (see Records you must keep by law).

Governance records:

  • constitutional records (constitution/trust deed)
  • board/trust/committee documents
  • minutes of meetings
  • annual reports
  • annual accounts (signed copies)
  • planning documents
  • governance policies (and policy development documents).

Premises/assets records:

  • premises leases
  • equipment leases, warranties and other documents
  • insurances.

Financial records:

  • invoices
  • cheque books
  • bank statements
  • budgets
  • loan agreements
  • monthly and year end accounts
  • treasurer and auditor reports.

Funding records:

  • funding calendar
  • copies of applications and accountability reporting
  • contracts for services (by funder and contract).

Employment records (for paid workers and volunteers):

  • job descriptions
  • recruitment records (note privacy requirements to not keep records too long)
  • time and wage records (including holiday records)
  • health and safety records
  • performance management records.

Note the privacy requirements for employment records.

Operational records:

  • operational plans
  • operational policies office management, communications plans, marketing plans etc
  • programme/project records (separate files for each significant programme or project)
  • client records and plans (note the privacy requirements for personal records)
  • correspondence (regularly review what is on file to dispose of unnecessary items)
  • details of lobbying/advocacy including submissions
  • media and press clippings.

Records to keep

Community groups, as other organisations, need to have clear policies about what documents and records they should keep, and what to dispose.

Checklist of records to keep

Records that must be kept include:

  • the constitution/trust deed and information about setting up the organisation
  • all the valuable information you have that helps to run your organisation e.g. mortgages, contracts
  • information about what is currently happening in or with or for your organisation 
  • information you are required by law to keep for a period of years (see below)
  • information you want and need to keep for reference including historical information
  • plans, letters, photos, videos, reports and stories about your organisation.

Records you must keep by law

This table sets out the records you are required to keep under certain legislation and the minimum length of time these records must be kept for (retention periods).

Retention Details
  • Business (financial) records including:
  • books of account (whether manual or electronic)
  • bank statements, vouchers, receipts, invoices and tax invoices, and payment details
  • details of assets and liabilities
  • details of services provided and invoices raised
  • details of tax returns including signed manual copies of electronic returns.
Retain for seven years after the end of the year to which they relate

Keep the records in safe custody

Tax Administration Act 1994
Goods and Services Tax Act 1985
Companies Act 1993

Annual accounts and audit reports (if applicable).

Permanently Not specified but good practice

Employment records:



  • wages and PAYE tax records (including KiwiSaver deductions and employer contributions)

seven years

Tax Administration Act 1994
(KiwiSaver Act 2006)
  • wages and employee time records
six years Employment Relations Act 2000/Minimum Wages Act 1983
  • holiday pay records and entitlements
six years Holidays Act 2003
  • accident and serious harm register.
Not specified Health & Safety in Employment Act 2015
Vehicle mileage records/log books seven years Income Tax Act 2007
Charitable (tax-exempt) organisations need to keep records of donations received and how the funds have been spent seven years Tax Administration Act 1994
  • constitution
  • share register (for a company) register of members
Permanently Companies Act 1993
(but this should guide other entities)

  • minutes of general meetings
  • minutes of directors meetings
  • annual reports
  • trustee, board or committee records for other organisations.
seven years Companies Act 1993
(but this should guide other entities)

 Remember that the records need to be kept:

  • in English unless specifically approved otherwise
  • in written form or in a form that is easily accessible and can be converted to written form.

Keeping records on computer

Computers and systems can fail resulting in your organisation and cause you to lose important documents. Establish a regular maintenance programme to ensure the safe-keeping of your electronic records which must be retrievable and readable at all times. 


Next page: Organising your filing system

Previous page: Introduction to record keeping

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