In 2011 Buyer Topia was founded as a member governed and run cooperative like Ocean Spray and Florida Natural to provide market research based fundraising services to community nonprofits throughout North America.
Buyer Topia met or exceeded all functionality commitments to all constituencies. All Buyer Topia’s current functionality, including fundraising cards, have been thoroughly evaluated by product fundraising and technology experts and found to have met or exceeded all stated capabilities. They also determined that Buyer Topia has the most products, value and features in product fundraising. The system can also concurrently process tens of thousands of transactions and can be operational within minutes.
Notable features of Buyer Topia include:
- Over 7.1 million products
- Interfaces with any state-of-the-art distribution center
- Separate portal to redeem fundraising cards
- Nonprofit, buyer and member dashboards
- Variable donation options
- Support more than one organization in single transactions
- Gift wrapping
- Order tracking
- Unique URLs and highly customizable pages for nonprofits
- One-click lists
- Three-tier tracking
- All transactions tracked and documented in real-time
- Highest level of security
In 2011 Buyer Topia was advised via email from the Connecticut Department of Banking that as a cooperative, it did not have to register as a business opportunity to sell memberships in the state. In 2013 the department informed Buyer Topia that its memberships were a business opportunity and they were considering an investigation which could lead to a fine of $100,000 for each violation of the Business Opportunity Act. They would not accept the 2011 email but offered and we accepted a consent order including a $7,500 administrative fine which discharged the allegations. The successor organization expects approval to operate in Connecticut before the end of 2014. The few other state inquiries were resolved in Buyer Topia’s favor.
With one exception, all Buyer Topia agreements included the clause: “Fundamental to this agreement is that Member will devote best efforts to provide fundraising direction and services to organizations resulting in advertising and purchases from the stores systems.” Sixteen members put at least minimal efforts into their fundraising practice but only eight of those for more than one month. Although the cooperative provided expert training sessions, routine live training and a continually augmented training center including recordings of the live trainings, most members did not avail themselves of these resources and of those that did only eight acted on it. Some members had not been given a realistic preview of the effort required to sign up appropriate nonprofits although it is anything but arduous and is arguably easier than business development for any other home based business.
The leadership and members of Buyer Topia did not follow the bylaws and associated procedures to deal with under- or non-performing members, several of which began to challenge the efficacy of the concept and platform.
Although eight members and hosting staff were prepared and wanted to keep Buyer Topia operational, the board and members voted to dissolve the cooperative and BuyerTopia.com in late 2013.
With the approval of the board, the eight performing members, with the board’s approval, scrambled to establish a successor organization to continue their fundraising practices.
On January 10, 2014 a major product fundraising company submitted a letter of intent to purchase Buyer Topia for an amount that exceeded all liabilities and departing member fees. Two days later a member posted fallacious and offensive comments on the Buyer Topia Facebook page; this was immediately followed by additional egregious postings by members and one terminated member on rant sites. The letter of intent was formally withdrawn on January 18, based on “damage to the brand” and “very serious concerns about parties apparently intent on devastating Buyer Topia and any organizations and people associated with it.”
The Board subsequently voted to file for bankruptcy but continuing rant postings augmented by calls “warning” of imminent arrests for fraud or pedophilia or tax evasion to the bank, landlord, neighbors, vendors, staff family members and ex-staff employers undermined the bankruptcy and devastated successor organizations.
None of the parties which posted the false claims and rants and made the despicable calls had ever followed the dispute resolution process outlined in the Buyer Topia bylaws or initiated any legal claims.
Buyer Topia’s bankruptcy did not address its assets in any way. The case was dismissed in October 2014 enabling Buyer Topia to monetize its assets and keep its commitments.
The Buyer Topia bylaws stipulate that in the event of a dissolution, after all liabilities are paid any, remaining assets are to be proportionally distributed among members.
The Buyer Topia assets are currently being marketed to established product fundraising providers. The successor organization, Community Strong, using the Buy Preferred platform will soon have the functionality Buyer Topia would have had at the beginning of 2014, had not it been shut down. Both organizations are now better prepared to promptly respond to egregious claims.
Members which have agreements to buy back their membership will be paid first. At the beginning of 2014 the value of Buyer Topia exceeded all liabilities and the sum of all member fees but now the Buyer Topia brand has been so devalued by attacks that it is unlikely that there will be additional monies to distribute among the members. Nevertheless the successor organization, enabled by its success, is offering to buy back all Buyer Topia memberships.
All other members may sign an agreement with the successor organization to sell their memberships. These memberships will be purchased in the same order as the agreements are signed.
Buyer Topia maintains detailed records including all minutes, member communication, training and activity, sales, financials, and actions, including monetization of assets, membership purchases, bankruptcy and rant postings.
Request for information should be directed to Nancy Parente.