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.