Curtis Thornhill is the CEO of Apt Marketing Solutions, a marketing operations and services firm.
In 2016, a colleague brought to Curtis’ attention an opportunity to serve as lead donor for an LGBTQ+ youth center in Tucson, AZ, where Curtis’ was born. The Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), a nonprofit with a 30-year history of successfully serving the community, was embarking upon a $1.8 million capital campaign to build a drop-in center offering young people a safe space to build community and receive essential services like counseling, housing referrals and job training. The facility included a technology lab and a culinary kitchen to offer job training facilities in a first-of-its-kind model. LGBTQ youths are at high risk of bullying, family problems, depression and anxiety, and are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBTQ youth. The center was designed to empower LGBTQ youth to find their passion, stabilize their lives, and grow into their leadership potential.
Driven by the core belief that ‘your name should show your values’, Curtis committed to supporting the project. As his business ventures have found success and security, he has increasingly pushed towards social entrepreneurship and saw the opportunity to leverage his marketing expertise towards the community building efforts of the center.
After due diligence, Curtis became confident this was the right project with the right leadership to transform young lives. His made an upfront contribution that gave him naming rights for center. He chose the “Thornhill-Lopez Center on 4th”, after his maternal and paternal grandparents.
In addition to his own initial donation, Curtis spearheaded the community fundraising effort to raise the full $1.8m necessary to support the project for its first 3 years of operation. He did this even though 2016 was proving to be the worst year in his company’s history with a major competitor bidding aggressively for his largest client and company revenue falling flat.
To raise the full funds, Curtis leveraged his commercial acumen to design a never-before-seen nonprofit funding structure. The complex three-tiered system, and the momentum of the project, allowed Curtis to secure a significant contribution from the Cox Foundation, with the remaining amounts contributed by private donors in the community. The structure was so inventive that it caught the attention of the Federal Reserve, who is looking at it as a case study for how to sustainably fund community innovation.
With the successful funding of the project, construction of the facility began in March 2017 and will begin operations in 2017. It is projected the center will serve 1,500 youths each year.
Curtis has distinguished himself by leveraging his entrepreneurial skills to establish a self-sustaining community center that will have a lasting positive impact on the at-risk youth in Southern Arizona.