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The Real-Life Cost of Running a Guild

May 2, 2013

Neri over at Neri Approves has been wondering why everyone seems to assume that guild leaders should be responsible for paying for guild hosting services.  This issue has come to a head for her because she has been feeling burnt out.  She decided to stop raiding and take a step back from the game and now finds herself feeling a bit resentful about having to pay the cost of her guild website and voice chat when she’s no longer using them.

I commented on Neri’s specific situation on her blog post, but I also wanted to answer her in more depth here.

Why Guild Leaders Are Generally Expected to Pay for Guild Hosting Services

Boss Lady Trixel

Guild services tend to be more secure and stable when provided by the guild leader.  In fact, most guild leaders I’ve known have been very reluctant to give up control of the guild website/voice services to another random member.  I have been in a couple of guilds where a member other than the guild leader was paying for the services, and while it worked for the most part there were issues that came up when that member changed guilds or quit the game.  Guild leaders had to scramble to replace services or gain administrative access to them, in one case having to create a new guild website from scratch when the website provider disappeared.  In contrast, when guild leadership changed we had smoother transitions as the outgoing guild leader handed over the metaphorical keys to the new leader.

The guild leader owns the guild and provides access to it and the guild services to the members.  Providing these services helps to strengthen the guild, attract new members and retain old members.  These are the goals of the guild leadership, not necessarily the guild members.  (Though you could certainly argue that members SHOULD have those goals in mind.)

Why Guild Members Are Reluctant to Pay Up

Lazy Goblins

Should the guild members be willing to contribute money to the guild?  Ideally yes… but most are probably not going to be.  After all, from their perspective: Why should they be paying for something most guilds provide for free? For a guild they don’t really “own”?  When they don’t know if they can commit to the responsibility or if they don’t know if the guild will be a good fit for them?  When they are already paying a subscription fee just to play the game?

If members don’t have PayPal they may find it a hassle to set up a method of payment.  They may also wonder how they can be sure they aren’t being overcharged, or that the money is actually going to the guild hosting cost instead of lining the pockets of an unscrupulous guild master.  New members in particular might balk at being required to donate money when they don’t know anyone yet and aren’t sure they’ll want to stick around.  If they join and discover they’ll be expected to contribute to the real-life guild fund they may turn around and walk right out the door again.

How Would Guild Leaders Even Collect Funds From Members?

Goblin Bank

Requiring members to pay for guild services seems rather complicated to me.  If you ask, say, every raider to cough up $1 a month, how do you organize that?  Do you have them pay on a per month basis, in which case they may not want to pay any transaction fees on such a small amount, or may feel like the contribution is too small to really be necessary?  Do you ask them to each pay $12 per year (meaning that each member essentially pays for one month of the service)?  If so, do you ask for it at the beginning of each year (which might make people balk if they aren’t sure they’ll play for the entire year), or do you assign each player a month and ask them to pay at the beginning of it?

What do you do if someone can’t/won’t pay?  If some people who pay feel resentful toward those who don’t pay?  If someone with limited funds feels guilty or embarrassed about being unable to contribute (to the point where they might leave the guild to avoid having to deal with issues of payment).  What about under-aged members who might need parental permission to contribute?  How do you track who’s donated and who hasn’t?  How do you penalize someone who doesn’t contribute?

If you just ask nicely for donations, what do you do if you don’t get any/enough?  Do you cut off the service?  (Possibly irritating your members.)  Eat the cost yourself?  (In which case, what’s the motivation for people to donate?  Will you feel resentful of this?)  Do you provide incentives for donating, like in-game rewards?  What if it’s the same one or two people paying the cost every month?  Will they start to feel resentful of the free-loading members?

Honestly, to me it seems like more of a hassle to get money from guild members than to just pay for the service yourself.  It’s possible that I’m just a pessimist though… If someone has experience with a successful guild donation program please explain it in the comments!

What if the Guild Leader Honestly Can’t Pay?

Poor Goblins

Obviously, if the guild leader is financially unable to pay for guild services other arrangements would have to be made.  I can think of four possible solutions to the problem:

  1. Have a trusted officer or long-time guild member take over payment.  This seems like the simplest option to me, though finding someone willing and able to do so might not be easy.  Approaching people individually is probably more likely to work than just issuing a blanket request for a volunteer.  (In the same way that telling a specific bystander to call 9-1-1 is more effective than just yelling for anyone to do so.)  This also has the benefit of minimizing the embarrassment a guild leader might feel about having to ask for financial help.
  2. Ask your guild members for donations.  Explain what the cost will be and exactly what services/features the money will provide.  I have no experience in handling this sort of situation, but I imagine that it would be necessary to track the level of donations somewhere your members can see it, (on the guild website, message of the day, etc), so that everyone knows where they stand and how urgent the need is.
  3. Look for free alternatives.  Do your members really need and use all the premium features of your website?  Maybe your members would be open to using Facebook or another social media platform instead of a traditional guild forum.  Can you find a free voice client somewhere?
  4. Do without.  Especially if your guild is a leveling guild or more casual/social guild you may not need any guild hosting services at all.  If your members complain you can tell them to feel free to donate!

What if I Can Pay, But I Resent These Free-Loading Slugs I Call My Guildies?

Begging

Ideally, I think every guild leader (or officer) should be providing guild services because they want to do so — because they enjoy being the bearer of guild perks and take pride in the thriving guild community they help create.  But if you’re starting to feel like guild hosting is a chore or a burden then it’s probably time to step back and re-evaluate what you find fun about the game.

First of all, is the burden a financial one?  If you’re stressing out about being able to afford to pay for your guild website, maybe you should pass the burden on to someone else.  WoW is a game and your other financial responsibilities should definitely come first.

If money is not the real issue, then maybe you’ve taken on too much responsibility within your guild.  Are you resentful of having to do all the recruiting, scheduling, raid leading, loot mastering, guild bank management, etc, etc?  Maybe it’s time to start delegating some responsibilities to the other officers.

Or perhaps you are just burnt out and have lost interest in the game entirely.  In that case, you should consider taking a break.  Hand over leadership to someone else, transfer ownership of the guild hosting to the new leader, and let THEM deal with paying for everything.

Maybe you just feel that if everyone benefits from the services then everyone should help pay for them.  This is a perfectly legitimate viewpoint!  However, you might find it difficult to convince your members to contribute.  Resenting your guildmates is never healthy for you or your guild atmosphere, so you should probably talk to your members and encourage them to donate.  The good news is that if you create a guild full of members who are generous with their donations you probably have some quality people in your guild!

Should Guild Leaders Be Expected to Pay for Guild Hosting?

Boss Mida

I guess this was Neri’s original question, and instead I’ve mostly explained why people expect guild leaders to be the ones that pay.  But should guild leaders be the ones to pay?  I suppose the answer to this question is “not necessarily”.  However, the guild ultimately belongs to the guild leader, who has the ultimate responsibility for everything about the guild.  If the officer paying for the website /gquits in the middle of the night and turns your website into a SWTOR site the next day, guess who your members will expect to fix the situation?  If you don’t get enough donations for the vent server this month guess who they’ll expect to come up with the shortfall?  Sure, the members might help, but in the end… it’s on the guild leader.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2013 3:23 pm

    Good post. This is the way I see it: They own it, they pay for it. If you want to be in charge of a competitive raiding/PVP guild (other guilds don’t require hosted services), you have to bear the costs of getting to implement your vision. Part of that is time, part of it is money. Essentially, you’re kicking your WoW hobby up a level from everyone else…and often when you kick your hobby up a level (whether that’s wood working, music, etc) there’s higher costs.

    I don’t think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just how things usually work. People can choose whether they want to increase their investment in their hobby or not (and, hopefully, they look ahead and expect the increased time and money it’ll require so it isn’t an unpleasant surprise).

    • May 2, 2013 3:30 pm

      I was thinking something along those lines too but couldn’t think of a way to word it. You just did a much better job than me explaining it!

  2. May 2, 2013 3:25 pm

    I don’t have anything to say re: the post, other than … omg a post! ^.^

    • May 2, 2013 3:27 pm

      I LIVE!!!! *rises from the electrified slab*

      And not just any ol’ post. One of my epic-length, content-filled posts!

  3. May 2, 2013 6:23 pm

    The question of asking members to contribute is one that, while I love the idea in theory, I feel uncomfortable doing just that for the reasons you mention above.

    One commentator on my post suggested that since everyone raids, everyone should contribute, and I automatically thought about those who are short on money. I know we have some members who don’t have money just lying around to spend on guild stuff, but they are constantly donating important materials to the guild bank. I would hate for their contribution to be seen as somehow lesser because it’s not “real”. Money causes problems for people in the real world, I would hate for that to bleed into their escape as well.

    In my case, I’ve been happy in the past to accept that it’s the Guild Master’s responsibility. If you find yourself starting to question these costs from a value perspective as opposed to a financial one, then it may be time to consider whether the role of GM is still right for you. I know I am.

    Great post, Khizzara!

    • May 2, 2013 8:30 pm

      I think most people have a problem asking others for money. I know I don’t even like to ask for virtual money (ie. gold) because I feel like I should be self-sufficient. I don’t have any problem showering my friends with gold and presents, but I feel bad taking them! LOL

      Somehow the internet makes things… weirder… when it comes to real money too. We all tend to think of the internet as a big, free amusement park. Pay for an on-line service? Why would we do that?! Surely there’s a free version somewhere, right? And we’re all suspicious of people asking us for money because there’s so many scams out there. If this was a baseball team or something I feel like it would be easier to convince people to “pay fees” or at least chip in to put gas in the bus!

      Anyway, I hope your officer’s meeting goes well. I’m sure it’ll be a big relief to have everything sorted out.

      • May 3, 2013 12:36 am

        I am like that too giving gold out to my friends but I am self sufficient with alts so I don’t have to ask others for stuff I need.

        When I first read about WoW in a gaming magazine I thought it was crazy that people would pay every month to play a game. There were tons of free games and computer games that you could buy and have for a single price. Yet here I am having been playing for over 4 years.

      • May 3, 2013 1:31 pm

        The way I see it, this hobby is a lot cheaper than most. Where else can $15 get you an entire month’s worth of entertainment? :D

  4. May 3, 2013 12:25 am

    having been in the spot of being the one hosting and paying .. I ended up putting a paypal donate button on the guild site that people could use, and the varying donations kept it running well for 4 odd years, but as we became less forum orientated and moved towards facebook we let the webpage lapse.

    With regards to vent .. as most of my family plays computer games this was a way for us to interact so makes sense for us to pay .. but I have had guildies offer to pay the rental from time to time.

    In both cases i took the responsibility to pay on myself as it is what I wanted for the guild, but i did leave avenues open for others to contribute. In the end unless someone wants to help there isn’t too much that can be done to force them.

    • May 3, 2013 1:38 pm

      It’s good that you had people who were willing to donate. My last guild had a paypal button up on the guild website, but I don’t think we ever got any donations. Which was a shame since three of the five officers, (including me), were unemployed at the time and we could have really used the help. Maybe people would have donated more if we’d made a bigger deal about it, but it always seemed too awkward to ask.

  5. May 3, 2013 5:33 am

    Wow, when you come back you really come back! Send love to Frank for me!

    • May 3, 2013 1:42 pm

      Yeah, but how long will I be back? Was this the start of a trend or just a one-off? Only time will tell!

      Frank gave me a disgusted look and walked away because love is a mushy emotion. But I can tell he’s secretly pleased. :)

  6. Rima permalink
    May 31, 2013 6:10 am

    Hi,

    I was in a guild called Nemetos Order (Sylvanas, EU), now Perplexity (same server) and they were/are part of a gaming community (the name slips my mind but i’ll get back to you about that.

    The cool thing is… the community supports your gaming needs (website + TS server) as long as you have your members register on their forums. Which any guild doing some level of raiding or social interaction has… (I think they get their incomes through advertisement incomes although i haven’t noticed any annoying banners or spammail.)

    Your guild gets a sub folder on the forum and other multi media portals and you’re set to have fun with your pixels, minimal burden for the guild master.

    Rima

    I’ll check back with you guys once i’v asked our old and new guild master how they sort that out.

    • May 31, 2013 1:36 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that, but it sounds pretty interesting. Let me know if you find out more details!

  7. MixSlayer permalink
    June 4, 2013 9:31 am

    I agree that most people do have a problem for asking for money. It kind of looks noobish, but the point is if you have many really good friends then it shouldn’t be a problem raising money for your guild.

    Like, many guilds are huge, and if everyone pays a small amount each and every month then its not a problem.

    I’ve been running my website with iGuild Websites (http://www.iguildwebsites.com) and I’ve set up the donation feature, so far I’ve raised about $70 which more than covers the majority of my expenses at least.

    My advice is to ask for a small donation but don’t be too pushy, otherwise you’ll just end up turning people off.

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