Johnny Portrait

The Modern Fundraiser

Hello! I’m Johnny Avots-Smith. I’m dedicated to making your fundraising more passionate.caring.skillful.successful.


Johnny Avots-Smith, MNA, CFRE  has spent the last decade working in all sorts of nonprofits: big universities, small theater companies, regional public television stations.

He’s raised millions of dollars, met with hundreds of donors, and helped to build development offices from the ground up.

Johnny has a passion for helping donors realize their values and legacies through the good work of great nonprofits. And for helping nonprofits realize their missions through the good stewardship of great donors.

He believes that great fund development professionals are more than just good gift officers—they’re Modern Fundraisers: highly skilled and well-rounded people with a drive to never stop learning, who care about the donors they serve, are passionate about the causes they raise money for, not afraid to step out of their comfort zone, and know that the best conversations require navigating culture.

Johnny holds a master of nonprofit administration from the University of San Francisco and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).

He lives in Oakland, California with his husband, their two vintage cars, and two adorable cats.

Let’s connect on LinkedIn

Come find out a little more about me, add me to your network, or drop me a line!


So what makes a fundraiser modern?

Life-long learning

The Modern Fundraiser devours knowledge for breakfast. They are always in search of new skills and they aren’t afraid to use them.

Not afraid of discomfort

Comfort zone? Not today! The Modern Fundraiser knows success often comes when you step out of your bubble to try the uncomfortable.

Care for donors

Donor-centricity? Donor love? Whatever you call it, The Modern Fundraiser understands, cares for, and wants the best for their donors.

Passion for the cause

Forget memorizing the mission statement. The Modern Fundraiser has a fire in their belly for the mission. The best spit mad mission rhymes.

Intercultural communication

The Modern Fundraiser doesn’t ‘work a room’ or ‘get face time’—they try to understand where a person is coming from and start a conversation based on values.


It takes a lot of time and effort to be successful. The Modern Fundraiser knows how to manage their energy and resources. They know when to keep pushing and when it’s time to go home.

Critical Eye

“Ask questions. Test everything. Make no assumptions.” is the Modern Fundraiser’s mantra.


The Modern Fundraiser knows themself and where they come from. Most importantly, they aren’t afraid to share it.

Read “The 8 Keys of a Successful Modern Fundraiser”

Are you a Modern Fundraiser? Find out!