A standardized file folder naming system, for both electronic and hard copy/paper documents, has many benefits that go beyond making it easier to find things, such as efficiency in training new staff, and reduced misfiling.

Below is an overview of the system used by Strauss for association record keeping that you might find valuable as a benchmark for your association. As well, a sample of the electronic file structure that our office uses is at the end of this article.

Paper Documents

We do not archive electronic files; however, when it comes to the paper records, as Kenny Rogers wrote in The Gambler, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”

Record Retention Schedule

Regardless of the above reference, Strauss does not gamble when it comes to creating, collecting, and maintaining records for its association management and event management clients.

The following is our record retention schedule:

Agendas 3 years
Brochures Permanently
Conference Insurance 3 years
Convention Contracts 7 years
Food & Beverage Contracts 3 years
Hotel Contracts 7 years
Programs Permanently
Registration Packets 3 years
Registrations 5 years
Remarks 3 years
Speakers 3 years
Sponsors 3 years
Monthly/Annual Events
Agendas 3 years
Brochures Permanently
Correspondence/Notes 3 years
Facility Contracts 3 years
Food & Beverage Contracts 3 years
Programs Permanently
Registrations 3 years
Remarks/Correspondence 3 years
Speakers 3 years
Sponsors 3 years
Action items/Agendas Permanently
Correspondence 3 years
Minutes Permanently
Reports 3 years
Strategic Plan Permanently
Audit/Agreed upon procedures Permanently
Budgets Permanently
Charts of Accounts Permanently
Investment Reports Permanently
Monthly Statements/Reports Permanently
Publication sales 7 years
Canada Revenue Agency Correspondence Permanently
Cancelled Cheques and Bank Statements 7 years
Sponsorship 7 years
Annual reports Permanently
Articles of Incorporation Permanently
Commercial General Insurance (CGL) Permanently
Directors and Officers Insurance (D&O) 3 years
Legislative 7 years
Related Organizations 3 years
Historical Strategic Planning Documents 3 years
Current Strategic Plan (see also committees) Permanently
Current Vision/Mission Permanently
Agreement for Services (client contract) Permanently
Contracts/Advertising contracts 7 years
Telephone logs 3 years
Contracts 7 years
Correspondence 3 years
Reports (including financials) 7 years
Proposals 5 years
Media/Public Relations
Clipping Service 7 years
Correspondence 3 years
Reports (including financials) 7 years
Proposals 5 years
Applications 3 years
Award Nominations 3 years
Correspondence 3 years
Scholarship information 3 years
Correspondence 3 years
Draft Copies 3 years
Final Draft 3 years
Final Printed Copies Permanently
Media Kit (2 Copies) Permanently


Sensitive Data: All emails or printed hard copy paper containing customers’ financial information including credit cards numbers are never to be retained—they are to be shredded after the information has been used to process a payment to a secure website:

Sending: Credit card numbers should not be sent by email; if you need to provide a credit card number, communicate it by phone, or send it by fax with the understanding that it will be destroyed after it has been used once.

Receiving: Ask anyone who must provide you with a credit card number to either give it to you on the phone, or send it by fax; this information is to be shredded after it has been used once.

Financial Records: All financial records should be secured by a password; access to the password should be limited on a need-to-know basis. The level of access can be limited; the most limited access is “read with no ability to make any changes.”

Electronic: All data is backed up on a scheduled basis and is maintained in offsite storage to protect data in case of damage to the building.

Sample Electronic File Structure

The following are the electronic folders we use:

Board of Directors

– By Year

– Meetings (Agendas, Minutes, Travel, etc.)
– Elections

– Strategic Plan
– By Year



– Specific Key Committees
– Nominating
– Membership


– By Year

– Sponsors
– Speakers
– Weekly/Monthly Reports
– Invoices
– RFQs
– Name Badges
– Final Report

Bank Deposits

– By Month and Year


– By Year

– Vouchers
– Expense Reports
– Budgets
– Monthly Financials

– Permanent Financial Documents

– T1044 (Not-For-Profit Return)/T3010 (Charitable Return)
– GST/HST Return


– Publications

– Logos/Artwork


– By Year

– Annual

– Timelines
– Budgets
– Programs
– Speakers
– Abstracts

– Mid-Year
– Regional
– Chapter


Permanent Records

– Bylaws
– CRA Correspondence
– Contracts
– Insurance Policies
– Trademarks
– Copyright Information


– By Year

– By Event (Meetings, etc.)

Policies and Procedures

Projects by Specific Name

Reference Material

– Articles



As an association management company and as event managers, we present the above article for informational purposes only. It constitutes general information and does not constitute legal, insurance, or other professional advice.