Day of the Dead Festivities
Not Living Up to My Potential

Care and Feeding of Your Guild Volunteers

Regardless if your guild calls them officers, council members, or suckers, all guilds have one special group of individuals in common -- volunteers. That's right. The guild leader? Volunteer. That officer you complain to after a rough night of raiding? Volunteer. Correctly identifying the folks who raise their hands to help make your guild a better place as volunteers is the first step towards keeping them -- and your guild -- happy.

To make sure we are starting from a common definition, Wikipedia defines Volunteering as the practice of people working on behalf of others without being motivated by financial or material gain. Volunteering generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life.Yes, there are power-mad individuals whose quest for an O slot was more about wielding the power of the gkick, but hopefully those folks are few and far between. I still like to think that most guild volunteers are motivated by pride in their guild and wanting to give back.

With that in mind, how can you ensure your well of volunteer spirit doesn't dry up?

Role Definition

One of the biggest reasons that a volunteer -- in WoW or in a RL capacity-- walks away from a volunteer opportunity is that the reality of how they are spending their time doesn't match up with what they thought the role was going to be like. This is often due to the volunteer not having a clear idea of what the role is for which they are volunteering, or what your expectations are as to what they will specifically be doing. If you are onboarding a new volunteer for a role you previously filled, then you should already have a good idea of what the role entails, and should be able to share that with the person prior to their committing to taking it on.

If your guild is taking on new volunteer roles, you have two ways to proceed:

  1. Brainstorm with your officer team upfront and come up with a solid draft of what you are looking for someone to do prior to soliciting folks to take on the role or;
  2. Come up with the general category and recruit folks who are willing to work through the definition process.

Having been a volunteer in both such situations, option 1 is probably the least painful route to go. This way, it's clear what you need from them. If you decide you'd rather allow an enthusiastic guildie the opportunity to help define their role, make sure you and your officer team are ready for non-emotionally, objectively evaluating new ideas. Because bringing in a new person to the mix is bound to introduce new ideas. And if you shoot down all your new recruit's ideas in one fell swoop, you are left with a deflated balloon where your formerly psyched guildie was standing.

Volunteer Recognition

No one wants to think their volunteering has gone unnoticed or unappreciated. No, I don't mean  you should be handing out superlative praise every time a volunteer logs on to ensure they feel appreciated. But it can be easy and motivating to work recognition into your guild's every day activities. For instance, when setting down a feast for the raid, thanking the individual who donated it. This seems like such a small and obvious gesture, but as a long-time raider who has handed out a ton of buff food over the years, I have to say it's less common than you might think.

Another form of recognition comes in the form of guild ranks. My guild, for instance, has a rank reserved for guild crafters. To be considered, you must have maxed out your profession's level, and applied for the position after attaining a small tenure in the guild.Those folks receive priority on rare pattern drops from raids, and agree to craft all items for guildies (with guildies supplying mats) without charging a crafting fee. It makes it easy for guildies to know whom to go to for crafting, while also recognizing folks for maximizing a profession and making time to share it with the guild.

Ongoing Evaluation

Have you ever had a job that you really liked, but after a while (be it a few months or a few years) it lost its zing? And you no longer put in 100%? You started to show up late, leave early, spend all day on twitter... until eventually you either left or they informed you your services were no longer needed? That apathy happens with guild volunteers too, and just like in the workplace, it can demotivate everyone around them.

No I am not advocating an annual review with 360 degree feedback from the guild. However, someone -- be it the guild leader or another officer -- does need to be taking notice of when a volunteer is getting burnt out or not living up to their role's expectations. When that situation has been identified, you have a few options:

  • Talk to the volunteer to find out what's up. Are they bored with the role or is something IRL interfering with their ability to keep up?
  • If they're bored, is there another role they'd like to take on?
  • If RL is getting in the way, consider giving them a "Sabbatical" -- giving their role to another volunteer for a predefined amount of time to give them some breathing room.
  • If it's volunteering in general that they are tired of, thank them graciously for their time, and look to the guild for a new volunteer to take their place
Keeping on top of these three basic volunteer management and motivation activities won't ensure a lack of drama in your guild but it should help you keep your volunteer ranks full of happy, enthusiastic guildies, helping make your guild a great place to play.