Space, reimbursement programs, and security do not keep alliance members logging in and retain membership. Just look at Solar Fleet or –A–, which have both lost all their space multiple times. They survive as entities because of their culture.
What do I mean by culture? I mean content. Eve is a game, and an alliance is only as good as its ability to deliver meaningful content to its membership. The larger an alliance or corporation is, the more diverse its membership, and the more diverse offerings it must provide.
How do you create culture? Part of it rests in how members treat each other, how leadership views the members, how the members view the leadership, and what members can look forward to on a daily basis when logging in. Culture is much easier to destroy than to build, unfortunately.
But what sorts of things are responsible?
1) Abuse. Members have choices about what they do with their free time. Eve is only one of multiple games out there. Even within Eve, many players have multiple characters in different corps. If you’re abusing your membership, they will go somewhere else, either by leaving your corp or by simply not logging in and participating. Generally, the ills of an alliance are not the fault of membership. If members aren’t participating, it’s because leadership isn’t creating content that’s engaging. Ranting about how terrible members are isn’t going to help the problem. In fact, it’s going to make it worse by demonstrating how clueless leadership is. Alliance forum trolls and angry corp channels will only push more people away. Eve is a game; it’s not our real lives. The same motivational principles used in the military don’t work when you’re talking about space pixels and immortal capsuleers.
2) Monolithic Content Generation. I almost called this “boredom”, but this description is more specific. If you are null-sec alliance, people expect that sov warfare will be the most critical activity members should engage in. That’s called being true to type. But it can’t be the only content you provide. If you want to keep members engaged, you need to have a variety of activities. If you want only PvPers, you still need to provide roaming gangs, wormhole infiltrations, high-sec ganking, pirate roams, etc. Fleet-doctrine operations are not sufficient. You need multiplicity, not hegemony.
3) Time Zone Abuse. If all your deployments are made with one time zone in mind, expect the other time zones to get the message that they don’t matter. Your members have lots of choices. All time zones draw at least 25,000 users every day; that’s a lot of content to be had. You need to have activity in all time zones. An Aussie likely doesn’t care how much activity your US TZ has, and vice versa. You need to keep those time zones in mind, but they don’t. They’re interested in whether they’re getting the most for their PLEX/subscription cost.
4) Lack of activity. This could be a symptom of any of the others, but keep in mind that your alliance is only as good as the activity over the past couple months. Most members chance corps every 6-9 months, and they aren’t going to wait for, say, winter, for something to happen.
5) Schizophrenia. Constantly changing the purpose, rules, or fleet doctrines of an alliance will only succeed in annoying your members and eroding confidence in leadership. They will give you the benefit of the doubt only so long as you don’t abuse it. A constant string of change will annoy them. New doctrines require time to train, and while they’re training for your doctrine, they can’t train for what they want to do. Changing the rules makes it difficult to form strategies about how they’re going to play. Changing the purpose will make members fleet quickly. Culture is built on consistency.
6) Poor Leadership. As I said, issue with participation is the fault of leadership. One Eve player is much like another (even bitter vets). No alliance has any more “better” PvPers than another. But, alliances do have better/worse FC training programs, member engagement programs, continuing education programs, varieties of content, and frequency of leadership availability. Pilots are only as good as the structure in which they operate.
Don’t believe me? Look at Pandemic Legion, who a lot of folks consider to be the best in the game. Have you ever seen them engage in a fair fight, outmaneuver and out-fly their pilots, and emerge victorious? No, they do drive-bys, hot drops, and employ overwhelming force. Their members are no better than any other pilot of similar skill and length of game tenure. What they do have is an amazing leadership-guided network of contacts, spies, and resources that help them be at the worse place for one set of pilots one moment, then half-way across the galaxy to be at the worst place for another set of pilots the next. This is engaging content for their members, and keeps them motivated.
The Romans weren’t inherently better or worse than anyone else. Structure and leadership set the Romans apart by breeding discipline, confidence, and investment in the Roman way of life.
So, How Do You Fix It?
Poll your members, listen to what their concerns are. Recognize that the fault inherently lies with you – either in your individual actions or in not providing them the content they want. Treat them with respect. Don’t harrangue them; set clear expectations with a warning system, then kick them once they exhaust the warnings (and be sure to reset the level of “warning” they’re on after so much time). Let the system punish for you. Don’t lose your temper, ever. Be dispassionate in punishment. When you set up a structure that others buy into, you gain the justification for holding them accountable. That way, you can focus on praising exemplars of your ideal alliance member, not punishing those that go awry. Ultimately, the goal is to give them the content they want insofar as your core purpose can be maintained. Without them, after all, you don’t have a leadership role, only a private corporation.