Jessica Rawlins Smith Joins Innocence Project as Chief Development Officer

04.04.23 By Innocence Staff

Jessica Rawlins Smith. (Image: Courtesy of Jessica Rawlins Smith)

Jessica Rawlins Smith. (Image: Courtesy of Jessica Rawlins Smith)

April 4, 2023— (NEW YORK, NY) The Innocence Project announced today that Jessica Rawlins Smith, a veteran fundraising specialist with a deep commitment to mission-driven work, has joined the organization as its Chief Development Officer. 

Ms. Rawlins Smith brings more than a decade of experience in fund development, securing significant public and private philanthropic dollars to resource organizations that drive transformative social change. 

As a fundraising specialist, Ms. Rawlins Smith has supported some of New York’s most impactful education and community-based initiatives. Prior to joining the Innocence Project, Ms. Rawlins Smith served as Chief Development Officer at Partnership with Children, an organization devoted to providing New York’s most vulnerable children with the resources they need to thrive in school and beyond. While there, she led the critical growth of private fundraising to support school-based mental health initiatives. In addition, she previously served as Senior Director of Development at All Our Kin, overseeing a broad portfolio of philanthropic, public, and corporate funding in support of high-quality family child care programming. Ms. Rawlins Smith also served as Director of Institutional Giving at the Harlem Children’s Zone, one of New York City’s most dynamic community-based initiatives, supporting a broad range of early education, K-12, post-secondary, and family-based programs.

“We are thrilled that Jessica will serve as Innocence Project’s new Chief Development Officer,” said Innocence Project Executive Director Christina Swarns. “Her proven track record of bolstering mission-driven organizations like ours makes her exactly the kind of dynamic and forward-thinking leader we need to strengthen and grow our community of supporters and donors and advance our mission to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, equitable, and compassionate systems of justice for everyone.” 

The Innocence Project’s development team has significantly grown the organization’s operating budget year over year by cultivating new donors, creating innovative partnerships and events, and educating key external stakeholders about the organization’s work. 

“Throughout my career, I have always been drawn to organizations that seek to build opportunities and more fair and equitable outcomes for everyone,” said Ms. Rawlins Smith. “The Innocence Project is one of the most transformative organizations in criminal legal system reform, and I am eager to bring my skills and experience to its continued growth and success.” 

Ms. Rawlins Smith received her B.A. in religion from Dartmouth College and an M.S. in fundraising management from Columbia University. She serves on the board of directors of Fiver Children’s Foundation and resides in Harlem with her husband and their French bulldog.



The Innocence Project works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone. Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, our work is guided by science and grounded in anti-racism.

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