Keep it in-guild
This is one reason raid leaders would prefer to give members priority. The gear drops will make members better, and the stronger the raid is overall, the easier it will be for the guild to progress. A non-member has no real loyalty to the guild, so he could get a nice weapon or piece of gear and never show up again. That means the guild has to run that content more in order to get members geared up, and that slowed progression can damage morale.
Also, members usually have to go through some sort of screening process before being invited to the guild. And once in the guild, they are bound to take on responsibilities to help the guild succeed in overall goals. It's a labor of love, but it should mean something when it comes to raiding and loot. A guild is a team, and that tag represents the collective elbow grease of many people.
When someone attends a raid, whether it's a member or non-member, he's almost always going for a chance to get a nice piece of loot. And that's perfectly understandable, since everyone there is taking the time and effort to participate in the raid. It's hardly fair to give someone first dibs simply because she has a tag above his head. And in some cases, a non-member might out-damage or out-heal a member. Should he have to yield to that member even though he's performing better?
In many cases, strict raid caps mean that every person on the raid is important to the success of the raid. That's particularly true in smaller raids because a 10- or 12-man raid that's even one man short is going in with a significant disadvantage. To bump a non-member down the loot list is not only unfair but also rude.
Not all raids are the same
Both camps have valid views on the issue, but the problem is that they're both generalities that often skim over some pretty important details. And in many cases, players on both sides of the argument fail to acknowledge realities of the actual raid. The bottom line is that not all raids are the same. On one end of the spectrum are the push-the-envelope raids, where the raid force is venturing into new content and is just getting its feet wet on the strategy involved. On the other end are the farmed-out raids, where a raid force has long since mastered the fights and is going in to try for one or two key items or is doing it for nostalgic fun. Somewhere in the middle are the raids where the players are close to mastering the content but haven't quite put all the pieces together.
The most important thing to examine when figuring out loot rules is that there are some raids where a guild needs non-members in order to run, and there are others where a guild can run a raid on its own but might have a few open slots and can extend invitations to non-members. If you can't run a raid without outside help, you really can't in good faith expect to give guild members priority over loot drops. There are guilds who auction over and over for one or two specific roles to complete their raid and end up having to call it when they can't find players to fill gaps. If a guild does find the needed help, those players should be able to expect an equal chance on raid loot.
On the other hand, you do have some wiggle room if you're running a raid and feel like spreading the love. There are times when top-tier guilds need to run through content they've mastered to get one or two important items for members, and chances are that most of the drops will go to alts or even rot. Those guilds might choose to bring in outsiders who aren't necessarily geared up enough to make a difference and who could actually make the raid more difficult because of it. In that case, the guild is justified in giving members priority over loot drops, particularly because the whole point of the raid is to get those needed items. However, there's a good chance that the non-member would still walk away with something because members have probably run the content many times and have most of what they need.
What it boils down to is that raid leaders should make rules that they're comfortable with and that fit the type of raid they're running. In short, don't give guild members priority if you can't afford to see non-members walk away. There really is a give and take when it comes to guests on raids. On one hand, non-members really are guests in a sense. Raiding isn't just about that particular night; it's about the preparation, organization, and behind-the-scenes effort that puts a raid in position to succeed. Non-members usually don't participate in that process, so it's not quite justified to say they should have equal share in the loot. On the other hand, non-members who really contribute and who might fill a vital role should be given proper appreciation when it comes to the rewards.
Whatever loot rules you use, it's always important to clearly state them upfront and give people the choice on whether they want to participate under those rules or not. You don't have to box yourself in by always going with a certain system because the type of raid you're running should determine how you choose to divide up loot. And always consider both the perspective of the members and non-members when making a decision.
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.