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 functionality, including fundraising cards, have been thoroughly evaluated by product fundraising and technology experts and found to have met or exceeded all stated capabilities and as having the most products, value and features in product fundraising. The system can handle tens of thousands of transactions at a time, and can be reconnected at any time to demonstrate this to verified buyers.
Notable features of Buyer Topia included:
- 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 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 of Banking informed Buyer Topia that they now considered cooperative memberships a business opportunity and a potential evaluation of Buyer Topia could result in a fine of $100,000 for each violation of the Business Opportunity Act. The Banking Department then recommended that Buyer Topia pay a $7,500 administrative fine to resolve the matter. The fine was promptly paid and Buyer Topia initiated registration as a Connecticut business opportunity.
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 even minimal efforts into their fundraising practice and only eight of those for more than 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 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 any other home based business.
The Buyer Topia leadership choose not to adhere to the bylaws and associated procedures to deal with under- or non-performing members, several of which challenged the efficacy of the concept and platform.
Although eight members and hosting staff were prepared and wanted to continue to, the board and members voted to dissolve Buyer Topia 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 a flood of outrageous accusations and demands of bankruptcy officials undermined the normal processes leading to the bankruptcy being dismissed in October 2014.
Successor and completely unassociated organizations were also subject to and devastated by continuing rant postings and bizarre calls “warning” of imminent arrests for fraud or pedophilia or tax evasion to their banks, landlords, neighbors, vendors, staff family members and ex-staff employers. 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.
The Buyer Topia assets were sold to a successful entrepreneur in January 2015. The terms of the sale guarantee that all Buyer Topia memberships will be bought back absolutely no later than June 2017.
Buyer Topia has maintained detailed records including all minutes, member communication, training and activity, sales, financials, and actions, including the bankruptcy and rant postings.
Request for information should be directed to Nancy Parente.