IdeaEncore & the Nonprofit Information Marketplace

I’ve written extensively about the value of philanthropic information and how it is fundamentally different than for-profit information. But what is it worth and to whom? It appears that we’re about to find out if the new IdeaEncore Network marketplace takes off.

IdeaEncore says this about themselves:

[We are] an online marketplace for the sharing of ready-to-use tools, presentations, course outlines, templates, and project plans within and between nonprofit organizations. The system is designed to provide incentives for sharing and a range of intellectual property protections for shared materials.

Nonprofits can upload any information they want to the system and make it available to anyone. They can share it for free or they can charge a fee for access. IdeaEncore told me that they hope the system will increase the quality and “velocity” (the speed at which information changes hands) of nonprofit knowledge.

Let’s say you are building your development office, you might download the Development Policies and Procedures being shared by the Association of Grant Professionals (for free). If you want to recruit volunteers, you might check out the Volunteer Position Description Template being shared for a price of $5 by Volunteer Vancouver.

What I find so interesting about the project is that we’ll be able to track the demand and supply of nonprofit information under both a free and paid model. From a social benefit standpoint, everyone should be sharing for free. But would the people at Volunteer Vancouver have taken the time to upload their template simply out of the goodness of their heart? Or does the $5 fee encourage more people to share information?

IdeaEncore seems to be asking all the right questions with an in depth FAQ section that covers such things as: the impact of the pricing decision on encouraging sharing while diminishing access, the elasticity of demand (the rate at which demand for the information changes as the price changes, and why buyers should be willing to pay.

IdeaEncore only launched a few months ago. But it seems to me that if they can cross a tipping point and their network of buyers and sellers gets large enough, that they might create a robust market place. Not only will this make information sharing between nonprofits more effective, but it will help us understand the supply/demand characteristics of nonprofit information which I believe are fundamentally different than the market behavior described by traditional economics.


  1. Leanne says:

    Yet again, another reason why I am ever so thankful I stumbled across your blog. Great stuff, Sean.

  2. David Lynn says:

    SDSVP is already getting underway with IdeaEncore. We hope (and expect) that some of our knowledge and tools that are not specific to one non-profit and we use throughout our process will have value to other similar philanthropic organizations, or even to non-profits who can use the tools themselves or with their local consultants.


  3. That’s great David. Seems like something SVP overall could really get behind.

  4. Gregory Wall says:

    Great post! Thank you for taking the time to talk to the team at the IdeaEncore Network and for the link to the ‘Development Policies and Procedures’ document. Things like this really encourage growth and sharing among like entities. Most importantly by using the site everyone has to the chance to save time and money.

  5. Jeff Mowatt says:

    Sean, let me offer a social enterprise perspective. First from our founding paper, describing the relevance of information to sustainable development.

    “In order for economic development to take place in any given location, the very first thing required, before anything else can possibly happen, is information. This information includes first and foremost where to look for the necessary resources to do anything. If new businesses are needed, knowing they are needed and finding funding for them are two very different things. The first step is to locate possible capital resources in order to move forward, and this step is no more and no less than information. Once resources are located, the next step is what terms and conditions are involved in obtaining those resources — more information. Once this is known, paperwork must be completed, business plans made, market research and due diligence conducted, and all of this compiled and forwarded to the appropriate parties. Again, nothing more than information. In fact, most of the work involved between identifying a need and solving the problem is information acquisition and management: getting and developing information.”

    Then a decade later, in a strategy paper calling for investment in information access to foster democracy.

    “Availability of affordable, modern day Internet access is crucial to any nation’s economic development. This is by now a truism and does not need much elaboration. It is enough to understand that nothing whatsoever can happen in terms of social, economic, civic, and political development without communication. To the extent that communication is limited or completely absent, development is equally limited. If demonstration of this is needed, each reader is invited to do the following. For the next week, do not speak, do not write, do not read, do not listen to or access any form of communication in any way. With those restrictions, it might still be possible to survive for a week. Extend the same restrictions indefinitely, and basic survival will be at risk. It is almost impossible to imagine life without communications of any kind.”

    Taking this concept to Russian in 1999 in the wake of their 1998 economic collapse, more than once it was asked “You’ve come here to create business s and give it away to other people. Are you more communists, or just crazy?”

    This concept, business existing for the purpose of social benefit, still seems alien, both to the world of business and that of philanthropy.