Turning a Passion into a Client

September 16 2013
Steve Winter
Steve Winter

Business runs in strange and sometimes wonderful patterns. It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while, you can turn something you love into an actual paying client.

Case in point, the Inova Charity Hockey Classic.

Five years ago, I was coerced into serving on the committee of a newly formed charity event because a friend – then an employee at Inova Blood Donor Services – was offered a two-hour slot of complimentary ice time with no idea what to do with it. Knowing I was a “hockey guy,” she insisted I serve on her committee; reluctantly, because – quite frankly – the last thing I needed was another pro-bono project, I agreed to serve.

What developed from that first meeting was an event that would ultimately grow into one of the top charity hockey fundraisers in the Washington metropolitan area. Together, with a committee of individuals who would soon become a close circle of friends, we developed a concept that would raise significant amounts of money for the service line to the not-for-profit Inova Health System that collects, tests and provides blood and blood products each day to 15 hospitals and medical centers throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area.

For the first three years, I served solely as a committee member … providing publicity and marketing services and helping to procure sponsors and silent auction items while doing my part to raise money. Having established a protocol by which players on participating teams solicited donations from their friends to “buy their way onto the team,” I also facilitated outreach to the local hockey community to enlist active and willing participants.

By the end of the fourth year, the individual running the event left Inova to pursue other endeavors, but knowing my passion for the sport, my participation in the competition and the professional talents of our company, he actively positioned Sage Communications during the fourth year to serve as the new event management team for year Five. After meeting with Inova management and hammering out an agreement, we (Sage) essentially ran the show this past year. With the former Inova employee consulting at various points along the way, our staff put our own distinctive stamp on the event – adding a few new elements and features while keeping the best of what the event created through its first four years. We also brought Sage on board as a participating sponsor, opening the doors for two other Sage employees to participate in the competition. In the process, we raised more than $65,000 for Inova Blood Donor Services, bringing the five year total donations to more than $280,000 while also laying the groundwork for our eventual, continued management of this campaign.

Does it always work like this? Getting to do something you love and actually making money for the company?

Well, not always … but by expanding your network, maintaining and developing your contacts and always keeping an eye out for opportunities … every once in a while, it does indeed come to pass.

And when it does – and when it’s successful – there’s no better feeling!


Hello Steve Congrats with

Hello Steve Congrats with your success with the Inova Charity Hockey Classic

Client is the heart of

Client is the heart of business. If the client is satisfied then you have no worries for you business. So this article is important for all of us.

Hi Steve...Congrats with your

Hi Steve...Congrats with your success with the Inova Charity Hockey Classic. Too many businesses miss out on golden opportunities because they turn down pro bono gigs. Wish you continued success with your endavors!

Matt Reed

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