Records Management

A back-to-basics guide on records management for small charities.



What are records and records management?

‘Records’ are the documents – whether paper or digital – that tell the story of a charity, voluntary organisation or community group.  

Some of them are current, working documents, such as an email thread which records the negotiations over a contract, details of training being done by volunteers or members of staff, or anything else relating to the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Other records may be historic such as annual reports and accounts from previous financial years, minutes of past board meetings and so on.  

Not all historic records need to be kept, but there are requirements to keep some specific records for set lengths of time. These older records are commonly known as the archives of an organisation. 

Records management is your system for storing, retrieving, updating and disposing of digital and paper documents. 


Why does records management matter? 

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the volume of records that an organisation generates, particularly when you think about all the emails, documents, spreadsheets, invoices and so on that are part of your day-to-day operation.

Add in data records, the minutes of meetings, marketing materials and newsletters and you will understand why records management is so important.  

What to keep, where to keep it, how to find it again and when you can safely dispose of it are questions that every organisation needs to consider, and have a process in place. 


Who needs to know about records management? 

Trustees have a responsibility to ensure that the organisation is well run and keeping accurate and relevant records (and archives in line with the law) is their responsibility. 

Some aspects of record management can be delegated to members of staff but the responsibility rests with the trustees. 

Members of staff and volunteers need to be supported to create and store records in accordance with the organisation’s records management policy.

Senior staff should ensure that correct records management policies and procedures are in place and that everyone received appropriate training and supportive supervision. 


Where do we start? 

Our Records Management in Charities: A Toolkit for Improvement is a great starting point. Use the self-assessment checklists to understand where your organisation is and what can be done to improve – which will help with efficient day-to-day operation of your organisation. 

The Toolkit was written in 2016 and CFG is developing an updated version to include changes to legislation. However, the principles remain the same and the toolkit is still a valuable asset for you and your organisation.  


Additional resources


Small Charity Guide to improving cyber security by NCSC


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Have you seen our other CFG Guides for Small Charities? Head back to Series 1 which includes guides on essential finance for trustees, banking and GDPR.