Auctioneer Kristine Fladeboe-Duininck raises her hand into the air and extends a high-energy welcome to more than 300 guests at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. (pop. 17,449), alerting the talkative crowd that bidding is about to begin.
Dinner conversation stops and the clinking of silverware on fine china quiets as the well-heeled guests turn their attention to the animated auctioneer, eager to raise money to expand breast cancer services at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in nearby Shakopee (pop. 20,568).
"There are seven items on the auction block tonight," says Fladeboe-Duininck, 36, of Willmar, Minn. (pop. 18,351), who specializes in charity auctions. "Let's work together to get the funds for the Saints Healthcare Foundation and take the care for breast cancer patients to a new level!"
During last October's auction, Fladeboe-Duininck used her dynamic and lighthearted style to solicit bids on four bottles of Italian red wine donated by a private collector. "All right now, what do you want to give? You tell me. Let's start down low. How about $50?" she shouts, launching into a rapid-fire, rhythmic chant.
By evening's end, Fladeboe-Duininck has sold the wine for $400, cajoled a bidder into a $1,000 pair of Minnesota Vikings football tickets, garnered $8,500 for a Hazeltine chef-prepared dinner for four, and nearly doubled the foundation's fundraising goal of $15,000, making it evident why she's the top female auctioneer in the nation.
Last July, the National Auctioneers Association named Fladeboe-Duininck the 2010 International Auctioneer Champion, citing her style, chant, presence and persuasive sales ability as the best in the nation. It wasn't the first time her auctioneering talent was recognized. In 2006, she nabbed the top auctioneer title from the Minnesota Auctioneers Association.
Fladeboe-Duininck is a second-generation auctioneer in the family business founded by her father, Dale Fladeboe, in 1978. Today, Fladeboe Auctions specializes in charity, real estate and land auctions, and all three of Fladeboe's children are auctioneers.
In 1996, between her junior and senior years in college, Fladeboe-Duininck attended the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa (pop. 27,337). She joined the family business in 2000 after a two-year stint in pharmaceutical sales.
"My heart wasn't in it," she says about her corporate job. "Now I'm doing the job that makes me the best person I can be. Doing my best to make a difference for these nonprofit groups is so fulfilling because it touches the lives of others."
Since 2000, Fladeboe-Duininck has made a difference for charities and their beneficiaries by helping raise more than $10 million for hundreds of worthy causes from zoo animal visits for hospital-bound children to shelters for abused and battered women.
Some of her most memorable bids include $10,000 for dinner with the president of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. (pop. 19,859); $5,000 for a baseball cap signed by home run slugger Harmon Killebrew; and $1,500 for a 25-pound Pearson's Salted Nut Roll.
While the Hazeltine audience was duly impressed with Fladeboe-Duininck last fall, what they didn't see behind the glitz, the glamour and the inspiration are the hours of preparation she brings to each event.
"She is more than just a body showing up and reading off descriptions," says Kelly McDyre, executive director of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Harmon Killebrew Foundation. "She gives us insight into charitable fundraising trends and connects us with potential donors that we hadn't thought about."
Fladeboe-Duininck also schools herself in each charity's mission. "It is not easy for a lot of people to understand our mission," says Peg McQuillan, development officer for Minnesota-based Memorial Blood Centers. "But she makes it very clear to our audience what we do and how they can help us."
And, following each event, when all is said and done, a lot can be said for how Fladeboe-Duininck benefits charities. "Her feedback is invaluable," McDyre says. "We pay attention to it, and that has helped us raise more and more funds over the years. It's why we keep having her back."