Configuring a Buy-Down or Credit Style CSA

Small Farm Central's Member Assembler software has been designed to accommodate many different styles of CSA and Farm Membership Programs. A Buy-Down, Credit style, or Market Style CSA is one where the shares that members purchase are defined by a monetary amount and will serve to afford each member a certain amount of credit that can be used to buy products throughout the program season.

In this model, every item they choose, either from an online department or in person at your farmstand will be subtracted from the credit amount that they purchased at the beginning of the program season, hence the term "buy-down". Members will continue to buy items until their balance gets down to $0. The following steps will explain how you can use Member Assembler along with the Ecommerce software to set up a buy-down or credit style CSA.

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To set up this style of CSA or Farm Membership Program, start by logging in to the Control Panel.

Configuring Member Assembler Sign-up

The first step is to set up your Member Types, Pick-up Locations and to configure your Checkout just like you would with any new CSA season. To read more about setting up Member Assembler sign-up, visit the Getting Started With Member Assembler section of the Knowledge Base. Read on for more specifics about configuring your Member Types.

As you begin to create the Member Types for your Buy-down CSA, you will have to take some extra steps. When you go to – Member Assembler > Configure > Member Types to create or edit a Member Share type, there will be a “Buy-down Type” option on the first page of the edit screen. Be sure to check off this option. Save your settings and proceed to the Options tab of the edit screen, where you will list your option names and prices. Notice that you can list a price and credit amount for each option. This is so that you can give your members a credit amount that is different than the cost of the share. For example: You charge your members $500 for the share but give them $525 in credit as a bonus. This works well to encourage members to buy larger amounts of credit in order to get a better deal.

(Note: Keep in mind that the Member Type configuration described above will issue credit to your members upon completion of the sign-up process. This works best if your members will be using their credit in a private Ecommerce department where you have set the access to only your buy-down Membership Type(s). This department configuration allows your members to shop only after their invoice has been paid in full. If you plan on giving your buy-down members access to a public department, or a private department with User Group access, you will want to follow instructions for Non-Automatic Buydown Credits.

Your customers will go through the sign-up process just the same as any other type of CSA program using Member Assembler, so don't forget to also set your Pickup Locations and configure your Checkout options.

Creating a Department

The crux of a Buy-Down CSA is the ability for your members to pay using their pre-purchased credit. [In this model, every item they choose will be subtracted from the credit amount that they purchased at the beginning of the program season, hence the term "buy-down". Members will continue to buy items until their balance gets down to $0.] Since this is a members only program, only customers who signed up for your program and paid in advance should be able to use the credits applied to their balance to order items. To ensure this, Small Farm Central allows customers to sign in with an email address and password in order to pay "with balance".

Therefore, your next step is to create a Private Department. You can read how to do this by reading the Creating a Private Ecommerce Department article. This article will also walk you through how you can give your members their password. If you are not familiar with how to set up a Department at all, visiting the Getting Started with Ecommerce section of the Knowledge Base should help to explain things before you follow the instructions for setting up a Private Department.

The important thing to remember when you are setting up your Private Department for a Buy-Down CSA is to set the Checkout option to "With Balance". This means that the amount of the member's purchase will be subtracted from the amount that they have been credited. You will also want to view your Balance Options by navigating to:

   Sell > Balance > Settings

Make sure that the box is checked next to "Enable Balance Support". This enables the ability for members to pay "with balance". You also have the ability to make sure that your member do not spend more than they have. By clicking the box next to "Do not allow negative balances" you will ensure that your members do not purchase more than their credit allows. If you allow this, it may mean that your customers will end up owing you money for their over-purchase, in which case you will have to invoice them for the remaining amount.

For example: Lets say that I have $15 left of my credit. But my total comes to $18. If you don't allow negative balances, I will not be able to check out of the Department with a total of $18 in goods. However, if you allow negative balances, I will be able to check out, but I will owe you $3, which will have to be collected in the future.

If you are doing a Buy-down style CSA, you'll want to make sure that you do NOT have combined balances turned on in Member Assembler. To check this, go to:

   Member Assembler > Configure > Display Settings

Scroll to the bottom of the screen to the "Other Settings" section to the box "Combine E-Commerce with Member Balance".
This box should remain unchecked. When this is done, the Member Assembler balance and the E-commerce balance will remain separate. When you look at a member's balance in Member Assembler, you will only be able to see if that member has an outstanding balance that they owe on their CSA. You will not be able to see what credit balance they have within the CSA store. To find out the member's credit balance, you'll need to go to:

   Sell > Balance > View Balances

If this setting is turned on, it can create situations where it looks like a member does not owe a balance on their account because it assigns their e-commerce credits against their Member Assembler balance.

Issuing Credits

If you are using the “Buy-down type” setting on your Member Share Types, your member's credits will be assigned to them immediately, even if they haven't paid. However, if you have created a private department for your CSA members, you can set the privacy based on a specific Member Type. If you do this, they will not gain access to the department until the associated invoice is paid in full. Once the invoice is paid, the department will be made available for use with their assigned credits.

If there are multiple users on a CSA membership, the credits will be initially assigned to the primary user on the account. Other users on the account can make purchases using these credits. The system will automatically adjust balances between user accounts.

Be aware that if you have public departments, the credits will be available in those departments immediately, even if they have not paid their invoice in full. If this is a concern for you, you may consider using non-automatic buydown credits. Read about them in the next section.

Non-Automatic Buy-down Credits

As mentioned above, there may be times when you won't want to set up your shares as the “Buy-down type” that automatically assign credit to your members. In these cases just set up your Member Types as you would for a regular CSA and DO NOT click on the “Buy-down type” option in the Member Share settings. When the time comes you will need to manually assign the credits to each member. To do so, navigate to:

   Sell > Balance > Add credit

From this screen you can use the Search function to find individual members and then click the “Choose” button to bring up the screen to add credits. When you manually add credits, they are immediately available for use in both public and private departments.

If you have a large number of members that you need to add credit to, we may[ ]be able to help you. Please contact us at for more information.

Checking Balances

When you give a credit to a member, it will not appear under their membership information. In order to see their balance, you will need to navigate to:

   Sell > Balance > View Balances

Their balance will show up as a positive number and as they make purchases, their number will decrease. This represents the amount of money that is owed to them, which you will "pay back" in produce that the member selects. Each time your member shops in your store, their balance will get closer and closer to 0 as they use up their credit and you "owe" them less and less. For example: A member starts with a balance of $100 because they purchased a $100 share. The first week they select $24 worth of items from your department that are delivered to their pickup location. Now their balance is $76.

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