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Thinking inside the box

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Filofile offers a charitable solution

Filofile continues to help a number of charities with records management.

Records management is a core area of a charity’s financial operations – so much more than simply knowing what money is coming in and where it is being spent.  Charities operate in an environment where the regulatory burden is increasing and particularly as far as GDPR is concerned.

While compliance is important, effective record-keeping not only delivers efficiencies in terms of staff time spent on locating, navigating and interpreting records but also helps manage risk.  By  taking  steps  to  get  their  records  in  order,  charities  are able  to  demonstrate  that  they’re compliant, but, critically, ensure that they can quickly and easily find the information they need.

In an increasingly competitive funding environment it is not enough that charities know they do vital work, they also need to be able to prove it.  Well-organised  records  can  support  this;  preserving  the  evidence  they  need  to  demonstrate their impact over time. For example locating thank-you letters from donors for an annual report, or being able to easily access data collected from a previous survey of beneficiaries.

There are a lot of different rules and regulations covering the work of registered charities in England and Wales. Many of these require charities to be able to provide evidence of good governance, processes and decision making. This evidence is often stored in the records of the organisation, and it can be confusing to figure out which regulations require organisations to keep records, what they want kept, and for how long.

What are ‘records’?

Records are the documents which are generated by the work of the organisation. These documents can be current, used for the current day-to-day running of the organisation. They can also be historical, showing how an organisation made decisions in the past. Not every document should be retained for permanent preservation, but those that are preserved are commonly known as archives.

Collectively, records should reflect the work of an organisation. They might be organised by the functions or activities of different departments and directorates, but overall they should tell anyone who consults them, who you are, how you are run and what you do.

 A variety of parties are responsible for a charity’s records:

• Trustees

As persons with the overall legal responsibility for ensuring that a charity is well-run, trustees play a vital role in ensuring that the organisation is a responsible record-keeper. Principle six of ‘Good Governance: A Code for the Voluntary Sector’ (2010, Second Edition) explicitly states that this is the responsibility of trustees to provide good governance and leadership through: “complying with any applicable legal or regulatory requirements concerning membership records”

The Charity Commission expects trustees to be responsible for complying with these regulations, and has statutory powers allowing them to intervene where trustees fail to perform this role.

• Executive Committee Members and Senior Management

Trustees are supported in their role by other executives and those in senior management, through their delegated powers to oversee the work of the charity, both on a day-to-day and longer term basis. This includes records management and sits alongside any powers they may hold or responsibilities they have to ensure regulatory compliance.

• Staff

Staff are responsible for ensuring that the correct records management policies and procedures are followed, as well as training and supervising volunteers in records management best practice.

• Volunteers

Volunteers need to ensure that they create and store records in accordance with the organisation’s records management policy.

Records fall into three main categories: Governance which will include: Minutes of governing bodies, Trust deeds, Constitution, Charity Commission schemes of management, Annual Reports, Membership records, Correspondence (including emails), General administrative documents (day to day management and governance), Policy and subject files, Case files, Visitor books, and Records of special projects or committees.

Under Finance and Resources you will find: Annual accounts, Trust accounts, Fundraising appeals, accounts, and literature, Property records, Deeds, Tenders, specifications, architectural plans and drawings, photographs relating to major projects e.g. new buildings and extensions, Inventories, Logbooks, and Correspondence (including emails).

Under Staff and work there will be: Personnel files for key members of staff, Publications, Newsletters/magazines, Press releases, Records from events including: invitation cards, publicity material, photographs, Calendars, Documents/correspondence generated by users, beneficiaries and other stakeholders, Scrapbooks and newspaper cuttings

Finally there may be appropriate personal papers from founders, activists, donors, officials, users or volunteers (if they provide useful additional information on the organisation’s history and governance). This might include diaries, correspondence (including emails), study notes, photographs and press cuttings.

At Filofile we take the strain away from managing and storing these documents, helping charities like Step One in Exeter and Community First in Devizes. Our super-efficient online retrieval request system with next day delivery as standard means documents are available whenever they are needed. Please get in contact with us if you would like complimentary advice for your organisation

SOURCE: Thank you to Records Management in Charities: A Toolkit for Improvement – part of the project: ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’

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