The Archives of U.S. Foundations: An Endangered Species

A foundation’s archives preserve records of the programs, activities, products, governance, people, and history of the organization that may have enduring cultural, historical, research, or institutional value. Ideally, an archive should be part of a comprehensive records management program consisting of a records policy, a short-term records retention schedule, and an archive collection policy.

As important as archives can be, little has been written about them in the foundation management literature. In truth, the creation and maintenance of archives, if undertaken at all, is typically an afterthought, and rarely considered a key information management responsibility. As the U.S. foundation sector matures, more attention must be paid to the retention and safekeeping of records that are important to historians who document not only the work, people, and institutions that foundations support, but also the very foundations themselves.