Digital File Organization

We have been a NPO since 1993 and have had multiple transitions with staff. They have been saving files, creating folders, and most likely attempting to organize them in a sensible manner - well, how it made sense to them. We have random, duplicate, and “why would that be there” files. I am asking if anyone has a failproof process of organizing digital files, has any policies in place on saving data, or just great advice on what works for them - and would be willing to share. My goal is to clean up our files as much as possible and create a policy for management moving forward. I know this seems like it should be so elementary :roll_eyes: however, the struggle is real! :face_with_diagonal_mouth:

Jen -
I don’t have a fool proof method but we have been through the same thing with transitioned staff, new folks trying to find what they need or organize for them. As we have a share drive that all have access to with certain folders that are restricted to only certain staff (Accounting folder, Admin, and User folders) that is where the proprietary documents or sensitive documents are kept. We have folders by topic and then we have an archived folder that is in each one. It allows us to keep the old documents that may have been revised or updated for audit purposes and move the oldest year (we keep three years of active folders) to the archived folder at the start of each year. That way the whole folder is moved to archive and not filled with new versions or current activity. It seems to be working so far. We have asked staff that if they are saving something only they would use to save it to their personal drive (backed up daily) and not to the share drive where everyone has access to it. We have taken to including footers with revision dates on documents that everyone has access to.
Follow your records retention policy for documents that you have to keep. Make sure there is a hard copy, if you still use them, in grant files or organizational files for the period the grant was active or save a jump drive with the documents on them in the grant files so you have it. As more people are going paperless, the jump drive is helpful.
We use a print screen of the share drive tree with instructions of what gets saved where for orientation and make sure that new staff understand the purpose of folders. We also welcome them to look through the folders to familiarize themselves with where materials are housed.
Hopefully this will help a little bit. It took us about 3 months to go through our server and clean it up folder by folder. We assigned each staff person a folder to clean up based on the work they did. Training, Outreach, Resources, Staff Information, Accounting, Administrative, Grants, etc.


GREAT info, Kim! I really appreciate the time you took to lay this out. This platform is already so helpful!! Thanks a ton!!

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Kim, thank you for the wonderful reply! We at MNA do something similar (though haphazardly) with the archive folders.

@jen.boyer.406 SO glad you’re finding this useful! Please keep posting, and let us know if there’s anything else we can do to improve the platform.

Hi all,
I know this is a year later, but it helps to answer a lot of questions we currently have going on in our organization. We are interested in what other nonprofits records retention policies are. We are moving from people using Microsoft and Google, to purchasing OneDrive, and we are also bring in an archivist to help with older documents. However, we still need some help in how to formulate a policy on retention of documents. Can anyone shed light on what they do?

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