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Community Development Resource Kit

SECTION A: Community Development Practice

SECTION B1: Setting Up A Community Group - Introduction

SECTION B2: Setting Up A Community Group - Legal Structures

SECTION B3: Setting Up a Community Group - Incorporated Societies

SECTION B4: Setting Up a Community Group - Charitable Trusts

SECTION C: Planning and Managing

SECTION D1: Employment Matters - Agreements

SECTION D3: Employment Matters - Support

SECTION D2: Employment Matters - Recruitment

SECTION E: Running Meetings

SECTION F: Project Management

SECTION G: Financial Management

SECTION H: Funding

SECTION I: Keeping Good Records

SECTION J: Technology - The Internet

SECTION K: Political Processes and Submissions

SECTION L: Legislation

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SECTION I: Keeping Good Records

Organising Your Records

Filing Systems

You might think that because we are well into the computer age and cyberspace, you may not need to keep quite so many paper records, but in fact you still generally do - and not just because computers crash and faxes fade. It is good practice to keep hard copies of faxes, e-mails, material stored on the computer, items from the Internet etc.

The records kept by a community organisation include:

  • all the valuable information you have which helps in the running of the organisation
  • information about what is currently happening in/with/for the organisation
  • information you are required by law to keep for a period of years
  • information you want and need to keep for reference
  • plans; letters, invoices, receipts, files, photos, videos, client details, mortgages, contracts, bank statements, forms
  • historical information

An effective and efficient records and filing system, which does not take up too much space, is therefore essential.

The system needs to be user-friendly and accessible to all who are authorised to use it. It needs to be able to keep the records safe and in good condition. It also needs to keep the records secure to fit with the provisions of the Privacy Act, which promotes and protects individual privacy.

How to Organise Your Records

Most records kept by community groups fall under two headings:

  • administration
  • operational

Administration Records

Administration records are common to everyone, from Microsoft, the plumber down the road and government departments, to charitable trusts and community groups.

They can be roughly grouped like this:


  • accounts
  • bank statements
  • treasurer and accountant reports
  • balance sheets
  • receipts and payments
  • agreements with banks for loans etc.

  • maintenance
  • leases
  • ownership papers
  • cleaning
  • security
  • moving
  • renovation
  • building services
  • insurance and warranties etc.

Equipment & Supplies
  • office machinery such as computers, printers, faxes, photocopiers, calculators, rubbish bins, filing baskets, etc
  • telephones, headsets
  • stationery and office consumables: paper, pens, staples, labels, etc. (In small organisations these will be bought ad hoc and recorded in the petty cash book)
  • furniture: desks, chairs and tables etc
  • food and drink
  • cars and vans

  • recruitment
  • industrial relations
  • pay scales
  • leave
  • EEO
  • biculturalism/responsiveness to Mäori;
  • contracts
  • personnel files for paid and unpaid workers
  • training
  • superannuation etc.

  • records management
  • information items: books, journals, newspaper clippings etc
  • public relations; media
  • publications
  • travel
  • annual reports
  • annual plans
  • strategic plans
  • any records that don't fit the other four categories.

Operational Records

Operational records reflect the work of the organisation, so they differ depending on the work of the organisation.

Community groups or voluntary organisations are likely to have the following types of operational records:

Board, Trustees, Committee

  • minutes
  • papers
  • subcommittees
  • meetings
  • reports.

  • trusts, foundations
  • other funding organisations
  • applications
  • timeline
  • schedule

  • individuals
  • groups or organisations

Legal Documents
  • documents relating to being a legal entity
  • rules
  • Articles of Incorporation or Trust Deed
  • charters, etc
  • other legal documents.

Other organisations with which you correspond or have dealings
  • government departments
  • organisations similar to yours

  • policies of the organisation
  • policies of other organisations which apply to your organisation or your clients

  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • Acts which apply to you and/or your clients (also explanatory pamphlets and guides)
  • Regulations which apply to you and/or your clients
  • legislation you wish to influence
  • submissions
  • petitions

Projects and Programmes
  • projects or programmes that you run
  • any others used by you or your clients

Other operational records
  • other information which may not fit into the above categories, but which you want to keep - especially on any particular subjects that interest your organisation.

Organising the Filing System

You need to know exactly what information you have. Divide the information into groups (as above). Make a list of your divisions by creating a file list then use dividers for different subjects under that file.

Decide on an appropriate filing system that keeps records in order. Make sure it is accessible, easily maintained, cost-effective and a suitable size for the available space. Also consider how you are going to protect your records from dirt, dust, fire, water, earthquake, humidity, sunlight, intruders, insects and rodents.

Filing Equipment

  • box files
  • computers
  • filing cabinets (lockable)
  • ring binder folders
  • manila or colour-coded folders
  • filing baskets

Filing Order and File Content

File papers in chronological or date order, with the most recent papers on top or at the front. It is important to document the scope of the file series so people know what should go in what file.

Maintaining the Records System

At least once a year, spend time on maintaining the records system

  • remove out-of-date material (especially from other organisations)
  • sort out and file away historical material
  • check that the file divisions are still relevant (if necessary, consult a records management professional)
  • undertake an audit to ensure that the required information is kept in the expected name

Records You Must Keep by Law

There are legal obligations on individuals and organisations to retain certain records for certain lengths of time. These retention periods start after the record has become non-current (not after the start of the file).

A record becomes non-current:

  • when the activity to which it relates ceases (e.g. projects, programmes)
  • at the end of the financial year (e.g. invoices, receipts)
  • when employment ceases (e.g. contract and personal records)
  • when you no longer need it
  • when you no longer want it

Electronic Formats

It is important to ensure that the paper records match the electronic records.

Common Retention Periods

  • Annual reports, legal entities: kept permanently.
  • Deeds of title: kept permanently, or until they are property disposed of.
  • Leases: twelve years after the lease is terminated, and all enquiries related to the termination are settled.
  • Contracts with customers (including suppliers and agents): six years after expiry.
  • Agreements such as licences, rentals, purchases, indemnities and guarantees: six years after expiry.

Financial Records
  • books of account under the Companies Act 1985: kept permanently
  • auditor's reports: kept permanently
  • tax returns: kept permanently
  • supporting schedules: 10 years
  • stock inventories: 10 years
  • investments - schedules and documents: 10 years
  • reports, e.g. to Board: 10 years
  • cheque butts: 10 years
  • bank statements: 10 years
  • GST records: 10 years
  • instructions to banks: 7 years

Staff Records
  • accident book: kept permanently
  • superannuation: kept permanently
  • tax returns: kept permanently
  • personal (head of organisation): kept permanently
  • personal: 7 years after employment ceases
  • payroll: 12 years
  • individual and group policies: 12 years after cessation of benefit
  • expense accounts: 10 years

Maintaining Your Records

Keeping Other Records and Information Safety

The records you keep hold a lot of interesting information about your organisation and the society it is in. Some records should be kept for historical interest. These may include:

  • annual plans
  • mission statements etc
  • policies
  • projects and programmes (all or selected)
  • minutes and meeting records

If your community organisation ceases to exist or is taken over by another organisation, you should consider having your records stored. Independent community organisations can contact the Alexander Turnbull Library, PO Box 12-349, Wellington for more information about archiving of records. Government or quasi crown agencies should contact the National Archives, PO Box 12-050, Wellington.

On contact, an archivist will assess your records for historical interest, arrange for permanent storage and make them available to researchers and the public in the future. If you wish to keep historical records (archives) yourself, contact a professional archivist for assistance.

Protecting Your Information

Information and records are vulnerable in two general ways, slow destruction and disaster.

Avoiding Slow Destruction

Some sources of damage are slow-acting or infrequent, but can still make information unusable. They include heat, humidity, light, computer viruses, vermin (insects and rodents), damp and mould (which can adversely affect paper, discs, photos, microfilm, slides and videos).

Reduce these risks by keeping records in folders, covers or boxes in clean surroundings. Keep them off the floor, and away from:

  • light
  • food
  • cleaning supplies and other chemicals
  • heaters and open flames
  • water, heating and sewerage pipes

Ensure you:
  • have fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and/or a sprinkler system in the records area
  • maintain software integrity - don't use discs from other organisations or copy computer programmes without checking for viruses
  • keep records in secure storage - in a safe if necessary.

Protecting Against Disaster

Some damage happens suddenly and unexpectedly. Examples include fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, explosion, computer crash and power failure. Your group should have a disaster recovery plan for records.

You can help protect your records from being damaged in a disaster by:

  • duplicating information and keeping hard copies
  • backing up computer records weekly (store the copies elsewhere)
  • keeping important originals (e.g. leases, bonds etc) at the bank, with the lawyer, or in a fireproof safe
  • keeping photocopies of important records at home or another office (e.g. creditors, insurance)
  • knowing where to find experts who can help in the event of disaster. Some computer firms have expertise in recovering computer records, and there are experts in this field, called “conservators”.

Privacy Act: Information Privacy

Security and Privacy

You must keep private:

  • all employment information regarding employees
  • all personal information you collect and hold about your clients (whether groups, organisations or individuals)
  • all sensitive information about your organisation.

Main Provisions of the Privacy Act

The main provisions of the Privacy Act:

  • Part II sets out the 12 Information Privacy Principles or rules governing the collection, storage, use, access to, and disclosure of, personal information by agencies
  • Part III provides for the appointment of a Privacy Commissioner, and for each agency to have a Privacy Officer
  • Part IV sets out the reasons for refusing access to personal information
  • Part V sets out the procedures relating to access to, and the correction of, personal information
  • Part VI provides for the Privacy Commissioner to be able to issue Codes of Practice which modify the Privacy Principles to take into account special factors relating to a particular industry of sector group (so, for example, the Health sector has a such a Code of Practice)
  • Part VII deals with information supplied compulsorily for public registers
  • Part VIII contains provisions empowering the Privacy Commissioner to investigate complaints about an interference with the privacy of an individual, whether by an act, failure to act, policy or practice
  • Part IX sets out matters relating to the way in which the Privacy Commissioner carries out his or her investigations
  • Part X authorises information-matching programmes to be undertaken by certain public sector agencies, and sets out information-matching guidelines
  • Part XI deals with law enforcement information

The 12 Information Privacy Principles

These deal with:

  • collecting information only for lawful and necessary purposes
  • collecting personal information directly from the individual concerned (with certain exceptions)
  • providing full information to the individual from whom the information is being collected
  • collecting personal information in a lawful, fair and reasonable manner
  • securely storing personal information
  • ensuring individuals can (with certain exceptions) exercise their right to access personal information held by an agency about them
  • ensuring individuals can (with certain exceptions) exercise their right to request correction of information held about them
  • an agency checking the accuracy of personal information it holds before using it
  • an agency holding personal information for no longer than necessary
  • placing limits on the use of personal information
  • placing limits on the disclosure of personal information
  • assigning of a unique identifier (a number identifying a person) to an individual.
    • Be aware of physical security and lock records away when not in use
    • Develop a confidentiality policy
    • Do not leave records where an unauthorised person can read them or steal them
    • Keep records in their covers, folders or boxes
    • Have a procedure that identifies records that are sensitive, and make sure authorised staff know they are sensitive
    • Have a "clear desk" policy for sensitive records - put records away promptly
    • Do not take records home
    • If records are taken from where they are normally kept, make a note of who took them, when they were taken, and when returned

If you are uncertain about privacy matters you should contact the Privacy Commissioner's office on Freephone 0800 803 909 or their website: for more information about your rights and obligations under the Privacy Act. If you wish, a staff member will visit your group to explain the law.

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Last updated: 13/05/2005