Expert Advice

I Got Drunk at My Nonprofit's Fundraising Gala

| Updated November 28, 2017

Overcoming an embarassing mistake

Nonprofit experts Gary G. Godsey, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, and Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, MissionBox co-founder and CEO, have teamed up to create MissionBox DoubleTake — a column that offers opinions about the peskier aspects of working in the nonprofit sector. The opinions offered here are based on the authors' personal nonprofit experience and may not reflect the opinions of MissionBox, Inc. These opinions should not be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for professional legal consultation. MissionBox readers are invited to submit alternative responses, which may be published here as well.

Last week, my environmental protection organization — a place that I love working at — held its big annual fundraising party. I worked the entire night before, making flower centerpieces, name tags and tracking tickets. I didn’t eat all day of the event — it was just too crazy busy!

Long story short, I had one too many free cocktails that evening. The pics that circulated after the event were posted on social media and don’t tell a pretty story. Let’s just say that I danced the night away with my shoes kicked off, my skirt hiked up and I looked like some 80’s club personality gone wild!

I am humiliated and I fear I’ll lose my job. I do not abuse drugs or alcohol as a rule. This just snuck up on me and now I'm afraid I’ll never live this down. All week, my coworkers have been making fun of me, as in, “hey, party girl” (snicker, snicker). I doubt my boss thinks my behavior was so funny.

What do I do? Ignore it? Apologize? Quit? This is bad.

Gary says ...

Remember, you are not the only person this has happened to. I would advise you to go to your boss and explain how the evening unfolded and I would take my cue directly from him or her. Perhaps you can just make a quick, sincere apology, and the matter will be laid to rest.

Clearly, you have learned an important lesson from direct experience, which can be the best teacher of all. It's never wise to mix alcohol and work. Too many bad or embarrassing situations can arise when you are not in total control of yourself. And it is not only a bad refection on you personally, but also on your employer. But because you stated that this is something that has never happened to you before, I'm betting this will blow over.

Remember that just because you lost it this one time does not mean you aren't a good and dedicated employee. Stay alert in the future and use your head at company events. There is always plenty of time for fun stuff off the employer’s clock.

Kathryn says ...

Bad scenario — no sleep, no food and too much free alcohol. I personally hate free alcohol at these events. I know it makes people more comfortable with opening their wallets, but it also supports over-imbibing and is a bit of a cheat. If you can’t inspire attendees with your mission, accomplishments and purpose unless they are loaded, they are only going to regret their overly-generous giving in the morning. Plus they probably won’t attend next year’s gala.

Now on to you. I’d go to my boss and explain what happened. Ask him or her for guidance on the best way to address the staff’s behavior toward you. Maybe a staff-wide email might be in order, telling your co-workers what happened and how badly you feel. Or perhaps your boss would like you to just keep doing your job and ignore the jokes, while knowing this will soon pass with the next big company news.

If you receive no guidance, then decide what you feel good about doing next. Remember, you are not the first person to go overboard at a company party and made a spectacle of yourself. You can just soldier on or make a public apology. Don’t quit unless forced to do so.

Also, think hard about what you have learned from this experience. Don’t make this mistake again. Don’t drink, even if the drinks are free at any work function. Keep your head on straight. Remember you make the choice about where, when and how much you drink.

I’m proud of you for talking about this and seeking guidance. If you are a good and committed employee, and this is really a one-time incident, you are probably OK. If this goes south on you, then find another great environmental protection nonprofit which needs your skills and help. And always remember the lesson.

Now, your take!

Ruth T-C says ... In addition to the good advice already provided, I would attempt to have the photos removed. If they were posted to any of the organization's pages/sites, that should be easy to do — contact IT, the webmaster or social media person and ask. If they were posted to colleagues' personal accounts, it could be a little more tricky, but they should understand and respond. Craft a carefully worded, low-key request — don't focus on blaming yourself or whoever posted the photos; just ask that they be taken down.

If all else fails, you might be able to contact the social media site in question and ask to have the images removed. This also might be a good way to suggest a new policy for the organization of not posting informal photos that could prove embarrassing to an individual or the organization.

MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

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