The Real-Life Cost of Running a Guild
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
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
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?
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
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?
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.