The first thing to do is figure out what you have and what you need to accomplish your guild goals. There are some members whom you can lean on a lot more, and they form the core of your guild. If you lose those members, rebuilding becomes much more difficult. After taking stock, it's easier to pinpoint need and fill gaps. This is also a good time to take stock of the remaining members. There might be some on the fence, and when players are trickling away, it's hard to prevent them from leaving as well. It's important to plug the leak, and taking stock actually helps with that because once you know what you need, you can focus the guild's attention on the plan of building the roster back up again.
Re-examine your vision
It's important to also think through your guild's overall personality. Without some sort of identity, it's nearly impossible to accomplish the rest of the rebuilding process. You need to know who you are before you can seek out members who fit, and it's actually that lack of identity that can get guilds in trouble in the first place. Figuring out your guild's style is what also helps you determine guild endeavors, and those in turn help you retain members once you've shored up the roster.
Round up the troops
Once you've figured out your needs, it's worth taking the time to get in touch with former members who you think might give the game or your guild a second shot. Chances are, some of them might miss things and be willing to be part of the guild's rebuilding. Normally, the word rebuilding might scare players away, but if you put it in a positive way, it's a nice chance for former members to come back, get in on the ground floor, and be part of that core that makes things happen.
It's now time to go out and seek new members to fill gaps and get things moving forward in guild. There are the usual options to get the word out, like forum posts or messages in chat channels, but those don't usually yield great results. Part of the problem is that those reach only a portion of the playerbase, and part of the problem (particularly in older games) is that there just isn't a big pool of players who are searching for a guild. You often have to go that extra yard to reach out to potential recruits.
If you visit a guild recruiting forum, you can usually find dozens of guild postings that say the same things, and if you're trying to rebuild, it's even harder to compete for good members. You need something to make your guild stand out from the pack, and the more specific you are, the better. Every guild can say it's active and runs events, but that's a little vague. What events have you run in the past, and what plans do you have for the future (be realistic with that, though!). Maybe you do weekly group runs or realm vs. realm events. Maybe you have rift hunts or guild warzone nights. Or maybe you had a zerg rush level one death run on an enemy city. Your description of guild activities not only helps you stand out but helps attract the type of player who wants to be a part of those events, and by extension, your guild.
Use the word rebuild to your advantage
If you're confident that you can rebuild the guild, it will show in your recruiting posts and messages. So the dreaded word "rebuild" can actually become an asset if you use it right. Some players will actually be turned off by a guild that's tight-knit, well-established, and riding on success after success. It's daunting to be on the outside looking in, and it's difficult for new members to break through, fit in, and contribute. So the fact that you're rebuilding might actually seem like a more attractive option to those looking to be involved in not only the success of the guild but the path to getting there. The key is to be honest, yet confident, in how you market yourself
Be willing to PUG it
Rebuilding requires legwork, and as unsavory as it might seem, going out and joining PUG groups or running PUG raids can be a great way to find good members. What's nice about these outings is that you're actually able to screen someone first and then decide whether to market your guild to her. It's important to find a balance, though, because if you PUG it too much, members will question the importance of being a member in the guild in the first place. Having good "member's only" events not only boosts morale in the guild but entices PUG players to want to join your guild so they can be a part of things.
Overall, if you're mulling over whether to disband or rebuild, keep in mind that you're in good company. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that every longtime guild has had to rebuild at one point or another. That can actually offer another way to weather the hard times: You might find another guild that's in the same position you are and would want to team up and join forces. Alliances are tricky but doable and might help serve as a bandaid as you both build your guilds back up. Rebuilding isn't easy, but there are options that can make it a bit less painful and perhaps even enjoyable.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.