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Donor Data Retention

Last modified: December 6, 2018
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How long should you keep records of donations?

Best-practice document retention guidelines dictate at least seven years.  For 501(c)(3) public charities, donor records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years in order to calculate the required public support test on IRS Form 990.  The reality is, however, it’s a pretty good idea to retain all such financial documentation permanently.  Since most such record-keeping is done in a digital format these days, whether in a donation-tracking program (like Kindful), or in a simple Excel spreadsheet, there is really no reason why donation data cannot be permanently retained.

A variation of this question often concerns church offering envelopes.  Assuming a church uses them, how long should they be retained?  Most organizations that use such physical means should be transcribing that data into a digital format in a timely manner.  If so, there is no compelling reason to keep them once the data has been digitized or otherwise recorded.

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