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MacLaughlin was born and raised in Jamestown, New York, where he attended Jamestown High School (New York). He graduated from Indiana University in 1997 with a BA in political science and English and later earned a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.
In 2001, MacLaughlin worked at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis on the development of the self-assessment for the re-accreditation of a university based entirely on the Web. He also taught a course on "Fundamentals of Managing Internet Development Projects" at Indiana University.
After joining Blackbaud in 2004, MacLaughlin spent time growing Blackbaud's interactive services group and later had product management responsibilities for the company's Internet product lines. Since 2008, MacLaughlin has served on The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) Board of Directors. NTEN is an international nonprofit organization with a focus on both the growth and professionalism of the nonprofit technology field as well as building knowledge and information sharing capacity throughout the sector.
In 2010, MacLaughlin became a winner of Charleston SC's Forty Under 40 award.
In 2016, MacLaughlin was invited to be part of the senior faculty of the Georgetown University New Strategies Program. This is an intensive, hands-on program for nonprofit executives and is directed by nationally recognized leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropy fields. Later in 2016, MacLaughlin became the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud.
During 2017, MacLaughlin became an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University in the School of Professional Studies' nonprofit management program. He has helped to design and teach a course on data and analytics in the nonprofit sector.
MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising, online giving, Giving Tuesday, Big Data, and nonprofit sector expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.
MacLaughlin has been an author and contributor to several reports including the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report, GivingTuesday Trends, and the Online Giving Report. Several media outlets have used these reports as the basis for stories about giving trends.
Since 2012, MacLaughlin has been regularly interviewed and quoted for his analysis of Giving Tuesday trends. In 2015, he helped publish the GivingTuesday Trends report, the first in-depth analysis of online donation trends related to Giving Tuesday.
Data Driven Nonprofits
In 2016, MacLaughlin self-published the book Data Driven Nonprofits using the publisher name Saltire Press. The book argues that nonprofit organizations should use data more effectively. In The Agitator, Roger Craver noted that the book "will not only change your mind, it will inspire you". The Third Sector observed that the book "has an easy, anecdotal style and some persuasive arguments". Fundraising UK summarized it as a "handy addition to the bookshelf".
In 2007, MacLaughlin wrote one chapter in the John Wiley & Sons book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0. In 2010, he co-edited Internet Management for Nonprofits, published by Wiley. Six years later, MacLaughlin's interview with Darian Rodriguez Heyman was the primary focus of one chapter in Nonprofit Fundraising 101, published by Wiley.  MacLaughlin has also written for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Advancing Philanthropy magazine, Philanthropy Journal, Fundraising Success Magazine and Civil Society.
- MacLaughlin, Steve (2016). Data Driven Nonprofits. ISBN 978-0988850712.
- Hart, Ted; Greenfield, James M; MacLaughlin, Steve; Philip h. Geier, Jr (2010). Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools and Trade Secrets. ISBN 978-0470539569.
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- "GivingTuesday Trends: A Closer Look at the Online Fundraising Impact in the United States". Blackbaud. June 15, 2015. https://www.blackbaud.com/files/resources/downloads/givingtuesday-trends.pdf.
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- "Book Review: An anecdotal guide to better use of data". Third Sector. September 30, 2016. http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/book-review-anecdotal-guide-better-use-data/digital/article/1410230.
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- "People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities". wiley.com. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470120770.html.
- "Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools and Trade Secrets". wiley.com. http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470539569.html.
- "Nonprofit Fundraising 101 A Practical Guide With Easy to Implement Ideas & Tips from Industry Experts". wiley.com. https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Nonprofit+Fundraising+101%3A+A+Practical+Guide+to+Easy+to+Implement+Ideas+and+Tips+from+Industry+Experts-p-9781119100461.
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