Hi, PJ. Unfortunately, the reality of the Internet is that many people are looking to gain at the expense of others. It's never a good feeling when you think someone has taken advantage of your generosity.
However, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that every person who has done this has done it maliciously. Some people are just flaky when it comes to guilds. They join with every intention of being an active, productive member. Then the next day they hear from a friend on another server who wants them to server transfer. They don't think about it. They just leave and they're gone forever. Yes, it's rude to do so without a note of thanks or even an FYI -- but odds are they weren't all out to scam you.
Try not to take these disappointments personally. You are the better person here. Don't let these people ruin your generous and welcoming spirit. Games like WoW need more people like you, not fewer.
At the same time, your guild assets and your time are not infinite and you should take steps to protect them. Here are some tips:
1. Create a zero-access guild rank.
Brand new members shouldn't have guild bank access. It's too easy for someone to take everything valuable in the vaults they can withdraw from and bail. Even if they don't do it themselves, a hacker could do the same thing if they don't protect their account info.
Instead, new members should begin at a zero-access rank. After a few weeks, if they seem to be committed to the guild, you can provide limited access by promoting them to the next rank.
You can make this official in your guild policies or play it by ear. In most situations I advocate for a written policy, but this is an area where you may want some wiggle room.
2. Never give away gold.
Confession time: I've given gold to players before. Occasionally I've helped out a long-time guildmate with something they really needed or jump-started a friend who was new to the game with an infusion of cash. In the earliest weeks of the game, I remember starting out in Mulgore and wondering when I would ever save enough money to buy an eight-slot bag from a vendor so I wouldn't have to make so many trips back to town while questing. It's much easier now, but it's still tough to start from zero.
But these are exceptions to the rule. If a player needs something, it's better to give them the item(s) than to give them gold. For one thing, it has a different connotation. Giving an item is like a friend doing a favor for a friend. Giving gold is like a parent giving money to a child. To do this with someone you don't know well feels uncomfortable -- and that's your common sense telling you not to do it.
Second, gold can't be traced. If you craft a new pair of epic boots for someone and you see your "crafted by" name on those boots on the Auction House later that day, you know that you've been scammed. If they tell you they need gold so they can fly in Pandaria, though, they could go buy their girlfriend a battle pet -- or sell the gold to someone for real cash -- and you'd be none the wiser.
Sure, most items can be sold anonymously on the AH anyway, but at least they have to join through another hoop to liquidate your generosity.
3. Be suspicious of new members who ask for gold or items.
It takes a truly brazen mentality to join a guild and then beg for financial help within the first few weeks. In my book, I called these players "needies" (to go with "greedies," "leeties," and "cheaties" as potential problem members). This behavior is a red flag that maybe they didn't join for the reasons you thought.
Tell the needies no and see how they react. If they get angry or try to guilt you into it, you're probably dealing with a leech at best, or a scammer at worst. Shut down the conversation as politely as you can. Then warn the other officers about this new member and be ready to kick them if they won't stop begging.
Some players have a mentality that the purpose of a guild is first and foremost to help them get what they want. These players don't belong in guilds.
4. Time is more valuable than gold.
The best counter to begging is, "I can show you how to get the gold/items you need." Their answer will tell you if they want to be self-sufficient or if they're just looking for easy handouts. Plus, the old saying about teaching a man to fish is true.
Also, players will remember the time you spent. People forget when someone gives them an item or puts 500g in their pocket. It's harder for them to forget when someone spends an hour teaching them how to turn a profit buying and selling on the AH, or flies around with them to show them farming spots, or tanks Heroics to help them gear up for LFR ilevel minimums. It's kind of crappy that it works that way, but it's human nature.
Sure, as you noted, players can steal time from you as well. But that's the risk we take when we help people, in games and in life. It's better to help and sometimes feel like a fool than to go through life without lifting a finger for anyone.
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to email@example.com.