Setting up a Filing System – Part 1

a.     Categories of filing

We can organise files into Groups to render a filing system more useful. A group/collection of items that belong together is a category.

e.g. PPWAWU, SARHWU, NUM and NUMSA all belong to the category Unions.

We try to file in a logical way when we file by categories; we put together files because they belong together; we avoid putting them together only because they begin with the same letter.

We could put all our files into groups, for instance. One group that takes up an entire drawer of our filing cabinet might be correspondence. We may have sub-categories may be such things as:

  • Correspondence from fundraising
  • Correspondence with other entities
  • Correspondence with elected members
  • Correspondence with members of the public
  • Board correspondence
    …and so on.

To make it easier to access the data, some records might have to be filed in two locations. You may have a category for ‘’funders’’ and for ‘’correspondence’’. For each big funder, you will have a sub-category in your funder’s category, and you will sometimes have to file a letter from a funder in the file of that funder as well as in your correspondence file for fundraising.

b. Forming Categories

1. Sort out all your papers into piles that you feel belong together
2. Offer a group name to each pile.
3. Create a category list.
4. Look critically at your list: Ask yourself: can we combine any categories? Will we split a category into two separate categories? What sub-categories are we going to need? Are we needed to have alphabetical files in a category?

Make sure there are not too many categories for you. It should not be hard for someone to determine in which category the information they need is likely to be found.

c.     Filing key

You will have to draw up a filing index once you have settled on your categories, so that everyone can grasp the method you have used and find the data they like. A filing key is called index.

By listing all the categories and sub-categories in the order they are filed in, write up a filling key. Ensure it is set out so it can be understood by all. Put it on the filing cabinet and put a key on the front of the drawers for each drawer, too. Offer a copy of the entire filing key to everyone. Ensure that anyone who files know the key and uses it for filing.

d.     New Files

If you completely sure the information does not logically fit into an existing file, don’t build new files. Place the new file in the correct category and write it immediately on the filing key. As soon as possible, give everybody a copy of the new categories.

e.     Filing Correspondence

All letters must be filed in 2 locations

Incoming mail

1. Together with a copy of your response, the original letter goes into the SUBJECT FILE.
2. A second copy of the letter is inserted in the file CORRESPONDENCE IN.

Outgoing mail

1. The SUBJECT LINE includes one copy of the letter. All letters replying to your letter must be included in this file, and all future correspondence on the subject.
2. In the CORRESPONDENCE OUT file, one copy goes in.

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