Keep on Giving

Suzy Karadsheh, manager of philanthropy, keeps Bill Krause’s charitable legacy alive

For most of her career, Suzy Karadsheh worked in higher education philanthropy, raising money for her alma mater, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. Now, she has the exact opposite role of distributing charitable gifts on behalf of Kum & Go.

If giving away money sounds like a great job, it is. In fact, Karadsheh, who became Kum & Go’s manager of philanthropy in early May, said she has the best job in the world.

That’s because Kum & Go’s charitable efforts run deep. Not only does the retailer give away 10 percent of its profits each year to support a variety of charitable causes, but the c-store chain’s associates are also engaged in the giving.

“Once a month, associates select a charity to make a donation to,” she said. “The last Friday of each month is referred to as ‘KG Care Day,’ when associates get to wear jeans and make a collective donation to the selected charity.”

Through the KG Care Day program, the Krause Gentle Foundation — named after Kum & Go’s co-founders Bill Krause and Tony Gentle — matches associates’ donations dollar for dollar. In June, Kum & Go associates donated to Above and Beyond Cancer in honor of Bill Krause, who passed away earlier that month.

The United Way has been another recipient of significant charitable donations. Kum & Go associates hold a fundraising campaign with a company match annually.

“In 2012, our campaign raised nearly $250,000 for the United Way,” said Karadsheh. Planning for this year’s campaign began in July and Kum & Go CEO Kyle Krause has challenged Karadsheh to exceed last year’s donation.

The Krause Challenge is another creative way Kum & Go supports the communities it serves. Founded in 1998 by Bill and Kyle Krause, the challenge allows finance students at Drake University, Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to invest money donated by Kum & Go in the stock market. The four universities compete to see which can earn the most from their investment.

Writing a check to a charity, though, is not the only way Kum & Go gives back. Its associates donate something perhaps even more important than money — their time. These efforts start at the very top as Kyle Krause — with whom Karadsheh works closely — and his wife Sharon volunteer their time on boards and committees for a variety of worthy causes. Several individuals at the company have followed suit by donating their own time to personal and professional causes.

Karadsheh plans to coordinate more companywide volunteer efforts that will allow associates to help the local communities while participating in meaningful, team-building activities.


Although Karadsheh told CSNews she has the greatest job in the world, she does face challenges. “I thought fund development for a nonprofit was tough, but I found that giving money is more difficult,” she said. “There are so many worthwhile charities, and unfortunately we can’t support all of them. We’ve decided we really want to focus our giving on community building and community enrichment. Further defining what both of those mean is a challenge that I’m excited about.”

Certainly, the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., and the Colorado wildfires are two recent crises that affected Kum & Go communities. “We quickly stepped in to help our neighbors during their greatest time of need,” said Karadsheh. In fact, Kum & Go donated more than $26,000 to the American Red Cross to assist with the Oklahoma tornado relief, and another $15,000 to help with the Colorado wildfire relief efforts.

Looking ahead, Kum & Go will continue to enrich communities, but the philanthropy executive noted that the company’s efforts won’t be used as a marketing tool to sell more products. “We genuinely want to provide responsible giving, whereby the [consumer] can feel good about being a Kum & Go customer,” she said. “And, as appropriate, we encourage our customers to participate in giving back.”

Karadsheh was a Kum & Go customer before working for the retailer.

Born and raised in Egypt, she moved to Canada in 1994 and then to the United States two years later to attend Calvin College. Upon graduating, she worked for her alma mater and accepted jobs with increasing responsibility along the way.

The mother of two daughters, aged 11 and 3, moved to Kum & Go’s hometown of West Des Moines after her husband accepted a job there in the insurance industry.

“I was immediately impressed with Kum & Go,” she concluded. “It was one of the first things I saw when I came to Iowa. I admired the welcoming environment when walking into stores and always noticed how friendly the staff was.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds