To keep mods active you should give them full access to all the forums and an ad free environment.
This is not my site but I help out a lot with it for a friend. The site makes money, the mod duties are very activie (normal mod interaction). It is a friendly site so no anomosity.
The friend states that the mod retention is sporadic averaging on 3-6 months. He feels that he maybe is asking too much with giving to little back. He was looking for what others do to help retain the mods via insentives.
To retain mods do this:
-Give them freedom and do not micro manage them.
-Let the forum flow for a while and eyeball the members that seem to contribute the most, are smart, and already add value to your community, THEN ask THOSE guys if they want to be a mod.
-I suggest you dont try to attract new mods because u will end up attracting power hungry people and fools generally.
good advice by zigx...its also nice to reward them every once in awhile to show you care..maybe a little christmas or birthday cash bonus...i find it encourages good work
Thank you for all of the suggestions.
I'm a moderator at a forum owned by a company, they give us t-shirts now and then. That's cool.
Another idea that occured to me was that since your forum is making money, maybe give them an offline (or online, even) subscription to a magazine (Wired, that new Make magizine, penthouse, lol).
Say it's a car forum and the mods are all car enthusiasts, maybe you can get them gift certificates to a detailing shop (I guess it would have to be available in all your mods areas, though).
I think most moderators do what they do because they enjoy it, you'll most likely never be able to pay them what they're worth and might end up offending some if you try. A little annual gift might mean more to them and save you money over trying to pay them cash.
On one forum, I gave out high quality golf shirts embroidered with the site logo. They seemed to be well appreciated.
Equally important is to listen to your mods when they have suggestions, let them know you are listening, and either act or explain your reasoning why not.
I pay $25/month and a t-shirt. It's not much money but it should cover their internet connection.
The majority of moderators work on a "volunteer-based" effort, so I like to tend to keep it that way. However, I'm not cheap, I just don't like to hand out cash directly as it can cause several problems.
I would occasionally distribute gift cards, gift certificates, tee shirts, movie tickets, that sorta thing. But I think once you hand out cash, you cross the line to a different level... things can get awkward (even if you dont see what im talking about right now).
I give my mods first crack at any project work that I have - content writing, editing, etc. I've also experimented with a small cash monthly stipend for my super mods, but I'm starting to lean away from this out of fear of offending some of the other mods.
I also make sure they're the most informed - first to know about new features, site gossip, etc.
I stay away from cash, because that implies they are employees. It's amazing what a simple greeting card can do for goodwill. Send it in June - you can send another at Christmas, but do it when it's unexpected.
Keep them informed. Don't you hate it when stuff happens where you work that affects you and you had no say in the matter? So do they.
We send T-shirts, and I try to get promotional stuff from companies to pass along. Since we're a music site, I can convince record companies to give us CDs in exchange for some advertising.
The previous advice about not micromanaging and giving them freedom is healthy. Let them worry about your forums and you can take care of the rest of your site.