Bidding up the interests of farmers and nonprofits runs in the Fladeboe family.
I've known some good peddlers over the years, but never one that sold a puppy for $60,000.
And for a good cause, to boot.
"Usually a puppy goes for about $1,300," said Molly Boyum, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Minnesota, the beneficiary of the annual "Breath of Life" fundraising dinner and auction conducted by Glen Fladeboe. "We've worked with Glen since 2002, and he knows our volunteers and this organization and the disease and he doesn't just show up for the auction. He comes in ahead of time and helps us organize it. He has our trust."
Two years ago, a tuxedo-clad Fladeboe hit the auctioneer's version of a "Eureka" moment for the medical charity, when a business owner attending the gala got into a bidding war with one of his employees over a Labrador puppy. This is healthy competition, eventually won by the boss.
"It was the craziest thing," recalled Fladeboe, "Those two and the crowd really got into it.''
The auctioneer has fond memories of many transactions.
"I once sold two lunches with Archbishop Harry Flynn for $22,000 apiece to benefit Friends of the Orphans,'' he said. "A lot of people want to give, and they would just as soon celebrate with like-minded people rather than go on a cruise."
Glen Fladeboe, 34, of Minneapolis, and his sisters, Kristine Fladeboe-Duininck, 36, of Spicer, and Kimberly Fladeboe-Anderson, 42, of Detroit Lakes, are the owner-operators of the 32-year-old Fladeboe Auctions founded by their dad, Dale, 67, a Willmar farmer who got into the auction trade to supplement his farm income.
"A lot of times I'll be doing a farm auction on a Saturday morning for people we grew up with, and then we'll be at a black-tie gala in Minneapolis raising money for Fraser School or for the Rice Hospital Foundation in Willmar," said Kristine Fladeboe-Duininck. "My dad had a heart attack in 2000, and I quit selling pharmaceuticals in 2001 to be with my father and enter this business. I'm glad I had the corporate experience. But my life's quest is to make a difference, in the lives of others, at the personal level, and by raising money for nonprofits or for the family farmer."
She seems to have gotten the hang of it.
Kristine, who has degrees in business and communications from the University of St. Thomas, last month was named the top female auctioneer of the year by the National Auctioneers Association, the industry trade group.
Glen Fladeboe, the principal owner of the business, has been the driver behind the charity-auction business in the Twin Cities area that's growing at a 30 percent-plus clip. A graduate of Hamline University and the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa, Fladeboe was working a media relations job for the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2000 when he took over for his dad at Fladeboe Auctions, where he had worked part-time since he was a farm kid. He started doing a few charity auctions in 1998.
The Fladeboes say they charge several hundred bucks to several thousand bucks, depending upon whether the cause is a tiny charity or the huge Minnesota Orchestral Association. The company, which expects revenue of around $500,000 this year, has four full-time and five-part time employees.
In 2005, the Fladeboes conducted 72 charitable auctions that raised $1.8 million for clients. In 2010, they expect to raise $5.75 million for 150 clients,
Since 2007, the Fladeboes have raised more charitable money through what is known as "fund-a-need" portions of the auction -- where the bidders win nothing other than the satisfaction of giving generously -- than they have from the traditional "live auction," where donors bid for a puppy, a dinner, a weekend at a cabin or other gift.
"We have put a ton of time and attention into knowing our charitable clients and how to help them build long-term relationships with donors," Glen Fladeboe said. "It's not just being a good auctioneer. It's telling the story of how supporting this or that organization will make it and the community stronger."
As the Great Recession cut down on small gifts from working-class donors in the mail, charities have relied increasingly on annual galas and auctions to raise proportionately more money, disproportionately from people of means. But not always.
Michelle Morrie, executive director of Pay It Forward, which helps hard-pressed women coping with breast cancer treatments make rent and other basic expenses, said Glen Fladeboe helped her more than double the annual take from the auction over the last three years to about $45,000.
"Glen is not high-pressure or pushy, and he has a genuine way of communicating that makes people 'want to give' instead of 'have to give,'" Morrie said. "That's a real talent."
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • email@example.com