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Drama is not the only issue to cause hardship among raiding guilds. We've seen guilds crumble and fall over new raid content. It seems we've come across another time-sensitive factor: the beginning of the school year. Guilds that have been blissfully progressing throughout the summer may be seeing their attendance plummet.
Remember folks, some things are more important than WoW. Education tops the list. It would be poor form to badger your scholastic members into raiding when they've got homework to do. Students also need a good night's sleep in order to perform successfully. This goes for college students as well as high schoolers, but they may have more flexibility in scheduling. In the end, WoW is just a video game and school affects the present and the future.
Parents may also be feeling a crunch now that school is in session. School time means taking kids to practice, attending sports events, concerts, field trips, and parent-teacher conferences. Plus parents may need more time in the evening for quality time with their little raiders. Just like school, parenting is more important than WoW.
That being said, what's a guild master or raid leader to do? Adjust! It's the start of the school year, not the end of the world. You have some options:
Trust that your raiders are doing the best they can to be there when they can. Having a larger pool to draw from will make it easier to fill in the gaps and keep your guild raiding. When you do recruit, be up front about your desire for commitment, and explain that raiders will be rotated. You may find that Healer X can raid on Tuesdays but is committed on Thursdays. You may be able to declare this a part-time raid spot and advertise specifically for a healer that can play on Thursdays. This may be a more attractive selling point for your guild.
As mentioned before, it's not just kids that are affected by the commencement of the school year. However, it will have a more persistent and consistent effect on the younger generation. This may be a good time to consider an adults only policy, while encouraging your junior members to form up with their peers. The option to run with adults only may attractive to potential recruits. Remember though, that adults may be students and parents, so make sure your raid times and attendance requirements are clear.
If you find that you have a guild full of loyal people who just have scheduling constraints, perhaps shorter or different raid times would work better. Check with your guild to see if weekends are better. If you have youngsters that need to be in bed by a certain time, perhaps you can shorten your raids by an hour or get an earlier start. Next to loot, I find scheduling to be the hardest aspect of coordination.
We've talked about expanding into larger raid content by combining runs with another guild. This is another situation where this may be the best option. You may be able to break the guilds into two raid teams with opposing schedules.
I see many guilds feeling the personnel pinch right now. With a little creativity the start of the school year does not have to be the end of your guild. There may be some downtime, but with patience and perseverance, you can pull through. Keep up the good work and remember: Some things are more important than WoW.
WoW.com offers a plethora of information on guild leadership and guild membership. Be sure to check out Scott Andrew's Weekly Column Officer's Quarters and keep an eye on the community with Mike Schramm's Guildwatch.