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Organizing Your Shared Drive

January is a great time to evaluate processes, rethink strategies and set goals. For many working in health care philanthropy, it’s a great time to set yourselves up for smooth transition into the new year and new quarter. It’s time to step out of the fast lane of multiple priorities and provide some time and attention to one thing that much of your work revolves around… your shared drive.

Has yours become a dumping ground? Even with the best of intentions, have you repeated the phrase, “I will get to that tomorrow,” only to realize you have started yet another year with a shared drive that is chaotic and messy? Is there an abundance of obsolete, repetitive or frivolous documents on your shared drive that makes it a struggle to find what you need quickly, resulting in much-wasted time? Use January (or honestly, any time of year) as the perfect window for a shared drive “home edit” to declutter and create a more efficient and navigable resource. You and your team will appreciate the time saved in the long run.

Getting organized can be tough. Where do you start? How do you maintain organization once achieved? Does the idea of diving into such a project feel overwhelming? Break down the steps and take it bit by bit. It WILL be worth it. When properly maintained, the shared drive helps centralize and manage the many team files that are often stored in multiple locations. Here are some quick steps to help create a system to organize, manage and declutter your shared drive:

  • Get Started. No matter your position on the team, be a leader and take initiative! Once you have approval, recruit a partner to help tackle the project. It’s more fun and productive to have a thought partner and gain agreement at the onset. It’s less effective to have too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to this type of project, so keep the involvement on a smaller scale.

  • Make a Plan. Create a timeline for this project and socialize with your entire team the steps you are taking before and during the process. Communication is key, especially while others continue to need and use the shared drive.

  • Take Inventory. Make a list of everything on the shared drive and create a way the puzzle pieces can best fit together. What makes sense as you search for various files? Where do they live and how do they fit with other files?

  • Create a Structure for Folders. Create a folder structure on functions, workflows and resources. Limit folders to four levels so users don’t get “lost” in the folders. Some departments may have similar functions and folders to reflect them. Consider these examples:

    • Administrative (meetings, bylaws, policies, procedures, forms, board governance)

    • Financial management (gift agreements, gift receipts, funds, expenditures)

    • Human resources (hiring, employee evaluation, promotion)

Other functions may be unique to your institution or department, so consider: “What

are our goals? What do we do? What type of documents do we create?” This can help

you identify and consolidate your folders based on function. Some sample buckets that

may apply to your institution and help give you a start are:

  • Association Memberships and Vendors

  • Community Outreach and Volunteers

  • Events

  • Fundraising Opportunities

  • Grants

  • Grateful Patient Engagement

  • Marketing and Communications

  • Performance Tracking and Reporting

  • Planned Giving

  • Prospect Research Management

  • Stewardship

As you consider your folder creation, remember to keep in mind workflow. Consider how documents move through your department and beyond. Keep in mind how frequently your staff needs access. Ensure frequently used documents are easy to locate and not buried down several levels of folders. Consider color coding to add another layer of organization.

  • Delegate Work. Once the shared drive organization strategy is determined, ask team members to then clean up their “owned” folders individually and by department. Delegating this step with reasonable deadlines will help everyone own and appreciate the new and improved shared drive.

  • Be Consistent. Use file names that are consistent, searchable and easy to locate for each folder.

  • Determine File Duration. Determine the fiscal years you want visible (two years would be ideal). Having more than that becomes less relevant and clutters the folders.

  • Archive Older Files. Establish an archive folder for historical data (beyond two years or determined duration). This is where your legacy materials and records will live. Once it is archived, delegate to department leaders to review and determine what can be purged.

  • Create a Key. Create a key to document your decisions. This is KEY to show what files moved where. Everyone needs to know where you started and where you ended. This is essential for your teammates and will eliminate any panic that comes when something is lost in the process and will help new staff when on-boarding. Save and label the key on the shared drive.

  • Share Your Work. Set a meeting with the team to have a show and tell of the new and improved shared drive.

  • Celebrate! Enjoy the good feeling of having a cleaned-up, organized, time-saving platform that will help make your department more efficient, productive and organized!

The shared drive can be an excellent resource if organized well. Every January, evaluate and organize your shared drive to make it an efficient, effective tool. Cheers to keeping what you need and letting go of what you don’t!

Accordant Checklist_Organizing Your Share Drive
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About the Author: Susan Attwell is a Senior Consultant with Accordant. She specializes in creating and implementing strategic plans for front line fundraising initiatives, donor cultivation, board relations and clinician engagement in philanthropy. You can reach her by email at or by connecting through LinkedIn.


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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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