We can never field full raids for 3 days a week and often have to go with offspec healers and 22-23 people one night of the week. This leads to times when we have to call raids on raid nights because not enough people show up. Some other nights are just bad nights; we go from one shotting Thorim one week to spending 3 hours on him the next.
This leads to a very tense feeling in the guild since we never seem to know how good we will do; and some of the members that I've talked to are upset with the guild even with our great progress. There is little guild cohesion and people view the original members of the guild as an exclusive clique who have priorty on loot council (which they don't). There are also some key problem members or just bad players[. . . .] We keep pushing recruiting hard on the forums and in game but the few apps we get are people in mostly 5-man gear which we can't take to Ulduar with us.
To me it feels like a guild on the brink and I hold my breath every time before we raid regardless of the amazing progress we have made. Do you have any suggestions on how to address these problems or at least make people feel more at home with the guild so they will stick with it?
A concerned officer
Hi, ACO. Your members seem to have concerns about you and the other officers, and you seem to have concerns about them. You say you're "on the brink."
My question to you is this: Besides recruiting, what are you doing about it? Are you talking to your players? Are you asking them if three days per week is too much to handle? Are you aggressively addressing scheduling issues? Are you actively and constructively communicating about mistakes that cause a 3-hour wipe-athon on Thorim? Are you explaining your loot system clearly so people understand it and feel comfortable with it? Are you offering to have a dialogue about other possible loot systems that everyone can agree on? Is every conversation among the officers, even those having nothing to do with guild business, held in /o chat instead of /g?
I'm sure you and your fellow founding members are all on the same page, but that doesn't mean the rest of the guild is. In fact, it sounds like there's a pretty major disconnect between the founders and the players you recruited and geared up. I'm not saying you have to change all your policies to suit them, but you've got to reach out to them somehow. Hear them out. Maybe they'll have good ideas. Maybe they won't. Either way, they'll feel like someone at the top is listening to them, and that's the most important part.
It's not fun to be part of a guild where you feel like you're just along for the ride. Players can put up with it while the ride is smooth. If things get bumpy, and your members don't seem to have a say in the course that's been chosen, they may get off the bus at the next stop.
As far as your raids go, like I've said, summer is tough. Sometimes you have to look outside the guild for help. PUG players can be a disaster, but considering the amount of info you can call up from the Armory about a potential raider, it's becoming less of a risk. Plus, if you're recruiting, you might find some diamonds in the rough, or a small guild that wants to form an alliance with you. Two or three PUG players probably aren't going to break your raid, and it's better than sending your members back to Dalaran empty-handed.
It's also possible that, since you've been pushing so hard after 3.1, some of your players might need a break. Consider taking a week off to regroup. Set some goals for when you return so your players have motivation to come back. Talk to players about their own goals, too.
If any of your issues are gear related, you and every other guild will get a big injection of loot in a few weeks when Conquest badges start dropping from everything.
A final question for you: Have you considered dropping down to 10-player raids? It sounds like you have an incredible core of players who are all good friends. If you don't want to deal with the issues that are being raised by your recruits, if bridging the gap is too difficult or it's just too late to make a difference, you might be better off raiding with the players you already know and like.
Sure, the loot's not as good, class balance plays a bigger role, and individual mistakes are magnified. But you might find out that you have more fun when it's just you and your friends filling up the slots. I'm not saying you definitely should. It's just an alternative if things go downhill.
Based on what you've written, I'd say your biggest problems are social ones. When the officers are all friends, it's easy to stay hidden away among your inner circle. That habit can lead to a clique mentality, and an officer clique can ruin a guild. Communication has to go both ways if you want to foster a healthy social environment. And that leads to a more comfortable raiding environment, for both officers and members.