SOLD! Changing the world one ballroom at a time
After adeptly stepping through the livestock ring in their cowboy boots, Glen Fladeboe and his sister Kristine Fladeboe Duininck launch into their auctioneer's chant to get buyers in the bleachers to dig a little deeper and up their bid on the fat steer being led by a beaming Kandiyohi County 4-Her.
"Thank you for what you did," said Fladeboe Duininck, calling out the first name of a local banker who got the all-in, all-done bid of $450 at the 4-H Blue Ribbon Auction held in Willmar on a sultry Friday night in August.
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," she says earnestly to the buyer, who doesn't actually get to eat the beef but will write a check to help fund the 4-Her's trip to the Minnesota State Fair with that same steer.
It's this jean-clad version of the Fladeboe siblings, who were raised in the business alongside their dad, Dale Fladeboe — known locally as the "singing auctioneer" — that's familiar to people in this neck of the woods.
But usually when they conduct auctions, Glen, 40, wears a tuxedo and Kristine, 43, an elegant dress accented with jewelry and makeup.
The splashy gala venues are typically ballrooms in the heart of the Twin Cities or in other major cities across the country and even in other countries, where the bidders are well-heeled, well-dressed and ready to bid thousands of dollars — even tens of thousands of dollars — on trips to Mexico or luxury suites to Vikings games to help the people, causes and organizations they are passionate about.
With an investment of up-front time in planning auctions with their clients, an engaging style and rapport that gets the audience revved up to give — and a deep-in-the-heart desire to make a difference in the lives of others — the Fladeboes can raise a million dollars in a single evening.
"They have a knack for doing it," said Don Shelby, former WCCO TV anchor, who has emceed numerous charity auctions with the Fladeboes. "I'm never surprised when they raise record amounts."
"When I work with them, I always know it's going to be done very well. It's going to be upbeat. It's going to be positive," said Belinda Jensen, meteorologist for KARE TV who has also emceed numerous charity events with the Fladeboes.
"They really believe to their core that it's for the community," Jensen said, explaining part of the power behind successful charity auctions that include the Fladeboes.
"We see the good in people all the time," said Fladeboe Duininck, who lives in Spicer with her husband, Jamie, and two children. "We see the hearts of people all the time."
Who they are
Since stepping in as second-generation owners of the family business about 13 years ago, Glen, Kristine and their sister Kimberly Fladeboe Anderson have catapulted Fladeboe Auctions into the big leagues to become one of the most popular and effective charity auction companies in the country.
"We feel blessed that we've become so busy," said Fladeboe, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Stephanie, and two young daughters, but comes home frequently to his parents' farm in Sunburg.
"Minnesota is a good place for a business like ours because it puts community front-and-center," Fladeboe said.
When they started in 2003 they did about 25 charity events and raised about a million dollars for their clients. In 2016 they will help raise nearly $30 million for 280 charitable organizations. From Sept. 10 to Dec. 10 they will be at 130 charity auctions. They will conduct another 150 auctions from Feb. 1 to June 30.
"They are part and parcel of the charity scene in Minnesota. You can't think of fundraising without thinking of the Fladeboes," Shelby said. "They've gained such a good reputation for being such great people to work with."
Part of their success comes from researching the science of giving and knowing how to best present the needs of the organizations during a fundraising event.
"It's got to be done right for them to give like crazy with a genuine heart and to get them so invested they want to come back next year," said Fladeboe Duininck.
Moving stories that are told by people who have benefited from past donations carry the heavy emotional message of how donor dollars make a difference. Jensen said "you can hear a pin drop" during that part of the program.
That message helps loosen the purse strings when the Fladeboes segue from emotion to action when the auction begins.
"The energy is palpable. It's fabulous," Jensen said, adding that the Fladeboes' genuine warmth, professionalism and trustworthiness have earned them a solid place in the business.
Finding a niche
"It's an interesting niche that he (Glen) found and it's a niche that was needed," said Jill Evenocheck, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Calling him an "icon" in the non-profit special events business, Evenocheck said she "can't imagine moving forward in our work without him there helping us raise money."
A growing trend with non-profits is to have special "fund-a-need" or "giving moment" auctions where donors raise their paddles to bid at different levels on absolutely nothing at all in order to help meet a specific need for the entity — like funding construction of a hospital wing.
Fund-a-need auctions have "changed the fundraising business dramatically across the country," Fladeboe said. "Guests are just inspired to support the mission."
He said younger donors are less concerned about the "see-and-be-seen" aspect of flashy galas but are big givers. "They want to believe they made a difference."
At a recent event, Fladeboe said a man spent $9,500 for Vikings tickets and then turned to the next table and gave those tickets away to the family of a 6-year-old girl with a brain tumor.
"We could tell you stories like that for the next three hours," said Fladeboe Duininck.
Well-run charity auctions can help "change the world one ballroom at a time," Shelby said.
Part of a team
The Fladeboe Auctions team — which includes 11 auctioneers and four consultants and also has strong farmland sales and a family farm transition planning component — travels throughout the midwestern states and across the country to meet with clients for charity auctions.
Fladeboe Duininck recently did an event for the Navy Seals and this month will make her fifth trip to Hong Kong to raise money for the poverty-stricken people in the Philippines.
But they also keep it close to home.
Jean Raatz from the Rice Health Foundation in Willmar said last year $300,000 was raised at their gala, which far exceeded their goal. "I don't think we'd get these numbers without the Fladeboes," Raatz said.
Prior to their upcoming Nov. 11 gala, Raatz said Fladeboe Duininck will meet with organizers to plan and prepare for the local gala that has grown each year with the help of the Fladeboes' expertise.
"We've got a gem here right here in our community who's willing to share her time," Raatz said.
Shelby said Kandiyohi County can lay claim to the Fladeboes. "They are your Fladeboes," he said.
But "in every corner of the state — and nationally — they are welcomed" because of their compassion and effectiveness as charity auctioneers, Shelby said.
Fladeboe said he can be at the Hilton hotel with 1,000 people in the audience one day and the small town of Kerkhoven for an auction the next. "I wouldn't trade Kerkhoven for the world," he said. "The outcome of our work is the real driver behind why we do this."