Raiding is a lot of work, and it can actually end up being fairly costly. Players often underestimate the overall cost of raiding; between food, flasks, and repairs, it does add up. Beyond that, each new piece of gear that you gain from raiding adds in additional costs through enchants and gems. Further still, some players have to re-spec frequently despite the existence of dual spec, and switching glyphs multiple times every raid can rack up a nice price tag, too.
With such a high cost placed on raiding, who is ultimately responsible for all of it? Early in WoW, the answer was easy. Each player was individually responsible for having his or her own materials. Wrath created a new issue with the introduction of feasts, where a single item could provide for an entire raid group. Now, Cataclysm offers another raid-wide consumable via cauldrons. As these items become available, who is left footing the bill?
The case for raid-wide consumables
Before getting into who pays for raid-wide consumables, let's first talk a little bit about why they exist. Sure, Blizzard introduced these items to us, but is there really a requirement to use them? The obvious factor is convenience. It is far easier to drop a single feast for the raid group than to bother with cooking all of the various different types of food that players need, and it usually takes a little bit less time to wait for everyone to eat a feast than it would for them to shuffle through their bags for food.
The visualization of the feast itself is a perfect reminder to actually get your food buff. Food is one of the few things that players have to constantly use after every wipe. The food buff can sometimes slip your mind, especially if you haven't wiped and the buff just runs out. Seeing a feast down and seeing others eating is a far more efficient cue than having to babble it out over Vent.
When it comes to cauldrons, it's a matter of materials. It takes far fewer raw materials to create a cauldron, which will provide enough flasks for an entire raid (plus a few extras), than it does to have raid members create or purchase their own.
This is really where starts to become an "issue" over using raid-wide consumables. Convenience is one thing, but (especially for flasks) you save a ridiculous amounts of mats and farming time by using feasts and cauldrons, especially once you get all the guild perks. At that point, it's rather difficult not to use them. The question then becomes who provides these materials?
"That one guy"
Every guild has one, and I've even been him once before -- the guildmate who literally spends all of his time farming astronomical levels of supplies that he shoves into the guild bank. These guys are almost the sole reason that the guild has anything in its bank at all, and the rest of the guild seemingly leeches off of them.
Although this seems like such a negative relationship, it usually isn't. These people usually aren't forced into doing this, and they do so willingly; in fact, they probably don't ever need to be asked, at all.
Even so, putting too much of a reliance on any single individual -- regardless of the circumstances -- is not a smart move for any guild to make. You never want to have all of your raiding supplies coming from a single source. If that player leaves, quits, or just stops sending in materials, then your guild is quickly going to find itself in a sticky situation. What's worse is that even though this type of player genuinely doesn't seem to mind their contributions toward the guild, "situations" can come up.
No matter how much he farms, one person simply isn't always going to be able to handle the needs of a massive raiding guild. An off week or break or anything of the sort will cause a noticeable dent in the guild resources. Once that happens even once, someone, somehow is going to turn the situation into a public spectacle. Names will be mentioned, tempers will flare, feelings will get hurt ... it all becomes a massive mess.
The longer you rely upon a single person for raiding supplies, the more you run the risk of creating conflict within the guild. That's something any raider wants to avoid, so you absolutely need to create a better system.
Your fair share
Requiring every active raider to "pitch in" with materials in one form or another is certainly an acceptable way of dealing with the issue. The major issue is one of logistics. First, you have to create reasonable requirements based upon how much your guild needs. How many cauldrons do you use every week? How many feasts? What should be the normal contribution for each raider?
These types of things do actually matter quite a bit, because just as you never want to run out of materials, having too high of a requirement on your raiders will cause you to have far more junk than you could possibly know what to do with. Guild banks have loads of space, but you still don't want that to become excessively cluttered, and you need an easy way to track the contributions of every raid member.
It can be easy to lay down a rule such as "every raider must deposit one flask in the guild bank from their main raiding toon in order to raid," but even that rule is deceptively strict and difficult to follow/enforce. Most raiders don't farm nor craft on their primary toons, which creates the pain of having to mail items to another character and then deposit them into the guild bank. You also have issues when players who don't craft things themselves go out their way to craft them.
I don't have an alchemist myself at the moment, but I do have several herb-farming toons. For me to farm massive amounts of herbs and place them in the guild bank is no big thing, but I don't always have the time or the desire to run around attempting to seek out a flask-specced alchemist.
But with a rule like "one flask," you will end up with people who make mistakes. They'll toss things in on their alts, they'll provide more than you ask for in any given time frame, they'll hand in raw materials instead of a finish product. It will happen. Be prepared to handle these situations.
Other (and better) solutions
There are probably just as many ways that a guild can handle raid supplies as there are raiders and loot methods. All of that aside, I honestly do believe that the method that my current guild uses is the most practical and the easiest to handle logistically.
Whenever the guild bank starts to run low on any particular type of supply, the guild bank starts to buy these items from raid members at base AH prices. For example, if we currently need Flasks of the Draconic Mind in order to make more cauldrons, then the guild bank will pay any guild member for either the materials to make the flask or the flasks themselves at the same average price they would get from simply AHing the item.
The reason that I find this method to be so workable is that it requires virtually no upkeep and no tracking, and it avoids any form of drama or pressure. You will never run into a situation where your main tank wasn't able to meet his contribution quota for whatever reason, yet you have to let him raid anyway, or the whole thing is off. You won't have a problem where one person feels like they are being taken advantage of by the rest of the guild either. Even if only one or two people make all of the guild deposits, they are being amply rewarded for it.
Once the guild has all of the materials that they need for that moment, they merely stop paying out for it. As stock beings to run low again, start buying once more. The entire system is simple, and it allows for your raid to take advantage of the great consumables that Blizzard offers without any of the mess that they can bring.
Funding guild events
Buying materials from raiders is all well and good, as is the use of guild repairs for your raiders, but it all boils down to one simple thing: money. Your guild is going to need gold, and plenty of it. As I said, raiding is really expensive. On a progression night, I can easily spend 200g in nothing but repairs. Now, consider applying that to 24 other raiders, and you're starting to look at over 5,000g per raid night on nothing more than repairs.
That is some serious change right there. In fact, I would say that raiding costs have scaled rather disproportionately over this raiding tier.
Heroic raids offer lucrative rewards to players, generally averaging over 125g to each raider on a boss kill. Once your raid is able to kill two or three heroic encounters with relatively few wipes, then you'll actually start making some money by raiding. Prior to that, however, you'll easily spend far more than you make. Regular raids don't provide near the same amount of coin as heroic encounters do, yet guilds can initially struggle on them just as much as they would heroic content.
You can use trade professions and the AH to make a really heavy profit. In fact, gaming the AH is a ridiculously well-paying skill to have in WoW, but guild banks can't really play the AH. Instead, they have to rely exclusively on player donations and the trickle gold from perks. The new guild challenges certainly assist in this, although they are a bit tricky themselves.
The raid challenge provides 500g, which is only really going to be enough for one serious night of progression raiding. The dungeon rewards are nice, quick, and easy to get, but often the more serious raiders don't bother with heroic runs any more -- they don't need the valor or justice points, or the gear, so why bother? And certain guilds (such as mine) don't really PVP.
If you plan on using guild resources to fund raiding, then you need to have a plan on how you will get that funding. BOE raiding drops provide a very nice sum of money, but those are only an option once your own guild members have them all and you actually get them to drop. The small trickle is nice, and it does add up quite a lot over the long run, but unless you are in a large, highly active guild, then it alone won't be enough, either.
A "standard" raiding guild that has around 50 to 60 members can probably rely exclusively on the trickle coin to supply themselves; a more exclusive guild probably won't. A small guild focused on 10-mans that has around 15 players just won't be able to support itself this way initially; you will need something extra.
Selling off extra BOE items, extra raiding supplies, and possibly extra enchants or enchanting materials is a great way to earn some additional capital if your guild needs it.
Ready Check shares all the strategies and inside information you need to take your raiding to the next level. Be sure to look up our strategy guides to Cataclysm's 5-man instances, and for more healer-centric advice, visit Raid Rx.