Martin Grossner

Martin Grossner

When you’re looking to research a product, where do you go? The Internet. When you’re hoping to find out more about a business, where do you go? The Internet. So, it makes sense to go to the Internet to check out potential employees, right?

“It is generally not, per se, wrongful or otherwise illegal to research an applicant’s online social media profiles, but there are specific obligations if the investigation involves an applicant’s financial and credit history, driver’s license verification, and related information that may fall under the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act,” says attorney Jason Shinn of E-Business Counsel, PLC. “I believe and recommend that employers should make the most of available technology and resources to find the best candidates for employment, which clearly includes social media related sources.”

However, this research comes with plenty of risks, says Shinn. He advises implementing “a written policy that clearly spells out what information or sites will be reviewed, who will conduct the review, and what records will be maintained.”

Such a policy is advisable, according to Shinn, in the event that a candidate is rejected after being researched online.

“For example, assume an employer receives an applicant’s resume and searches for that applicant’s Facebook profile or another social network profile. Let’s further assume that the employer discovers that the applicant is of a certain race, religious faith, is pregnant, or is disabled. This knowledge could create a link between a denial of employment and a violation of applicable employment or labor law. This is true even if this knowledge had no bearing on the employer’s hiring decision,” Shinn explains.

Beyond documenting your organization’s process, John McKenzie, an attorney with Kastner Westman & Wilkins in Akron, Ohio, has another suggestion: “It is best if a non-decision maker screens the candidate via social media sites so that only relevant qualifications are relayed to the hiring manager.”

In addition to discrimination, Patrick Richter, an attorney and partner in the Austin, Texas, office of Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller, LLP, says the most common legal issue associated with employers monitoring--and taking action based upon--candidates' use of social media is invasion of privacy.

“In most states, a person has a right to be free from invasion of privacy, and an employer's viewing of online activity could cross that line. However, to maintain a claim, a candidate would have to show that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy -- something that might be hard to show given the public nature of online activity,” Richter says. “Nonetheless, privacy is an issue that employers should consider before using a candidate's online activity in the decision-making process.”

Max Drucker, CEO and president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Social Intelligence, adds, “There is also the risk of an employer making hiring decisions based on erroneous information, as they are not necessarily trained or experience in online research.”

Social Intelligence Hiring is a background screening service that enables employers to navigate social media. “We make no attempt to get around an applicant’s privacy settings,” says Drucker. “We only review public information, and only information the candidate has created themselves.”

Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd. located in New York City, explains that everyone has two online presences: one you control and one you do not.

“The first presence is what you do yourself online. The pictures you post on Facebook. Are you holding a beer in one hand, groping someone with the other, and sticking your tongue out? Why would an employer want to hire you?” says Hurwitz. “I won't submit them. Regardless of the job description, my clients are all looking for professionals who will not embarrass them.”

Hurwitz continues: “The second [online presence] is the one you have no control over. If people dislike you, they can write whatever they want and there is little you can do about it. Good employers will ask questions, and based on a candidate's responses, no doubt dismiss it out of hand. It's the first presence that's the issue.”

As an employer, what “red flags” should you be looking for when researching job candidates online?

“Red flags are not always pictures holding a beer bottle...but that is one of them. Red flags can be something as simple as a typo on the site or a grammar problem. Red flags can also be any post or material which suggests controversy, such as belonging to an organization that is not very popular or that is associated with an unpopular position on an issue,” says Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University in New York City. “We just completed research on this topic and will be issuing a press release on it at the end of March...76 percent of all students likely have a problem with their Facebook profiles.”

Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor.com career and workplace expert, adds: “Hiring managers will look for clues as to how a candidate speaks of her past employer and colleagues. If a candidate constantly left negative comments about her colleagues, an employer might want to think twice about what this person could do to their company's culture and employee morale. Social media also gives us our best look ever into who the person considers their peers and contemporaries. If leaves don’t fall far from the tree, taking a look at who the connections are can say a lot.”

Although it may be hard to imagine in today’s tech-savvy world, what if you can’t find the candidate during an online search?

“If you can't find a job candidate online, it shouldn't mean that a candidate automatically gets dismissed,” says Rueff. “Instead, job candidates and employers should think about what is involved in the job opportunity. If a candidate has little to no online presence, and social media has little to do with the job, employers can use this insight during a job interview to simply find out why.”

To be sure you are someone employers bring in, “have two online profiles, one for your private life and one for your professional pursuits...and never blend them together,” Chiagouris says.

Interestingly, many people are blending their networks, according to new data from MyWebCareer, a free online service that evaluates your social and business networking profiles to generate a personalized Career Score. Based on data collected in Feb. 2011 from 5,000 MyWebCareer users, on average, 23% of LinkedIn connections are also Facebook friends -- a far cry from keeping the networks completely separate.

Similarly, 63% of the Facebook profiles analyzed listed at least one employer, a further sign of the blurring of lines between professional and personal networking.

“My best piece of advice,” says Rueff to job candidates, “would be to get familiar with your online persona and make sure your online brand complements who you are and how you want to be perceived. A strong personal brand can help communicate where you're headed and underscore the value you bring to your trade and industry.”



Friday, 12 June 2015 07:53



Each day more and more government agencies, foundations, corporations and other grantmakers are adding information to the Internet. In addition, information on individuals' wealth is also readily available. Most of this information can be found by going directly to Web pages or to specially designed databases (that often charge a fee). Resources in both of these areas can help fundraisers search for appropriate funding or determine a prospect's net worth. Increasingly most research can be done from your computer. This article first focuses on researching grantors online and is followed by researching individual's wealth using the Web.


On the Internet there are several approaches to information on foundations. One is visiting the homepage created by the grantmaker. This contains descriptive material on the mission, perhaps a brief listing of the most recent grants, guidelines on eligibility and how to apply. Sometimes you can note you've been there by signing their guest book, requesting further information and asking to be put on their mailing list. Always you can see how the foundation presents itself visually - does it favor lots of bells, whistles, and glitz or is the website rather plain vanilla in its look? This offers you a lot of information on how to shape your approach.

The following three websites offer free lists or connections to foundations:

  • The Council on Foundations is the trade association of grantmakers. Its site www.cof.org connects you to a growing list of their over 1800 members' Websites.
  • Philanthropy News Network Online offers current news about philanthropic organizations, allows you, through its LINKS button, to see various lists of grantmakers (private foundations, corporations, and community foundations) and offers a Meta-index of Nonprofit Sites.
  • The Foundation Center's homepage (www.fdncenter.org) connects you through its GRANTMAKERS button to many brief foundation descriptions and links to their websites. You can also contact a professional librarian who is available to answer questions submitted via e-mail about foundations, nonprofit resources, corporate giving, and the best utilization of the Center's wide range of information services and resources. Along with this Online Librarian, the Electronic Reference Desk has two other components: responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a directory of links to other nonprofit sites of interest. Another service provided by The Foundation Center is their Philanthropy News Digest, a free emailed overview of grantmaker news.

Some, like the following databases, charge fees for access which can get expensive quickly. The Dialog Corporation provides definitive online information on grantmakers. You access DIALOG (after subscribing) through the Internet or directly through your modem. For details, dial them up at 800-334-2564 or look at their website www.dialog.com. There are over 600 databases which this vendor provides, some of them of particular interest to those doing funding searches. A subscription is necessary before you can access the information.

While DIALOG is not easy for a novice to search, these valuable databases offer excellent, current, and in-depth information. If you want to start your foundation grants research by using the three DIALOG databases, here is a hint to save money, time and frustration: Find a nearby techie type of corporation that searches DIALOG for its own daily information needs. Any research and development organization in fields such as pharmaceuticals, computers, or biological science will probably have a librarian on staff who does this type of database searching. Request a gift-in-kind from the corporation of an hour or so of searching with the firm's most experienced DIALOG searcher. This individual will know how to speak to DIALOG efficiently. With your thorough knowledge of the project you want funded, you will be sitting right there to help refine a too huge or too tiny search. Easy? No. But searching online saves weeks of print research.

Also, The Foundation Center, a clearinghouse of grantmakers' information, has two huge, beautifully crafted, elegantly indexed databases -- one covering 900,000 grants and the other information on 53,000 foundations. The Foundation Center databases are also available for purchase on CD-ROM (discussed below). OryxPress, publisher of many directories, has one database that indexes thousands of grants offered by federal, state, and local governments, commercial organizations, associations, and private foundations.

OryxPress also offers this database on the Internet, calling it GrantSelect (www.grantselect.com) with 10,000 funding opportunities in both the United States and Canada. Oryx also offers an E-mail Alert Service to update users.

The Chronicle Guide to Grants (www.philanthropy.com/grants) is another online database that presents all corporate and foundation grants listed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy since 1995. Access is over the Internet, by subscription. This is the archive of the grants you can review on their Website every other week.

Specialized Lists

Amazingly enough, some of the large colleges and universities are willing to share the lists of foundations they have researched. One example is Foundations Relations Digest. This publication comes from a department within the Office of University Development and Alumni Relations at Columbia University. Their Digest gives lots of interesting details on private foundations.

Search Engines

Search engines have already done the hard work of searching the Internet and entered millions of sites into databases for you. Any search engine will help you find "grantmakers." Even though some curiosities will appear, since searching the Internet is always an adventure, there are often very fruitful finds. Try this large search engine to start: Ixquick Metasearch (www.ixquick.com) searches 14 of the major web search engines simultaneously and has a star rating system to help you find the sites that include the highest number of appearances of the term for which you're searching.


The Foundation Center's FC Search CD-ROM gives access to over 53,000 foundations, over 210,000 current grants and over 200,000 trustees/officers/directors. It is easy to use and, since this is a purchase, not a subscription, you won't feel the pressure of the time clock to research quickly.

In Taft's Prospector's Choice you'll find detailed funder profiles covering nearly 10,000 foundations and corporate giving programs providing information on up to 50 grants per profile, as well as total giving figures and helpful directions for making contacts and completing applications.


Finding corporation and business funding on the Internet is sometimes as easy as remembering their name or abbreviation; for example, the Internet address for IBM is www.ibm.com. Some corporations such as IBM include corporate giving information on their website. On the "about IBM" page, there is a "philanthropy" link with details of their giving. In addition, addresses, stock filings and holdings, and annual reports of public companies are often available.

For corporate giving information, the current best Internet source is The Foundation Center's "Corporate Grantmakers on the Internet" (http://fdncenter.org/grantmaker/gws_corp/corp.html). A site search engine offers quick access by subject and geographic terms. Brief listings contain the company's interests and giving areas but often no mention of the amounts of money that have been given. Each site links you with the corporation's own website, providing many more details on the company (but not necessarily on their corporate giving).

There are any number of good sites for general corporate and business information on the Internet:

The Insider Trading Monitor is a commercial online service that is available through DIALOG or direct from Thomson Financial WealthID. Thomson Financial Wealth Identification, formerly CDA/Investnet, is the leading provider of wealth identification data, insider trading information, and innovative prospecting solutions. Since 1983, Wealth ID has been helping America's largest nonprofit organizations, banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms identify and track high net worth prospects, donors, and clients at www.wealthid.com. The Insider Trading Monitor compiles all SEC information on 10,000 public company insiders (covering over 200,000 executives, directors, and major shareholders). You can search for your prospect and see what his or her stock holdings are or if he or she has purchased or sold stock. This helps in estimating giving capacity and liquidity, and can be used to determine what type of gift, cash or planned, makes sense, particularly if capital gains are an issue. This information is only available on publicly traded companies, and only on stock that is held by a company insider. Private portfolio information is not included.

Hoovers (www.hoovers.com). Contains, in their COMPANIES & INDUSTRIES,12,500 profiles of corporations. Snapshots are free; in-depth profiles entail a nominal monthly fee.

Business Journals' Book of Lists (www.bizjournals.com). At the end of the year, each of the 41 business journals throughout the U.S. compiles the lists of the top 25-or-so businesses they have highlighted throughout the year and makes them available on paper and on CD. Here are your neighboring businesses with addresses, CEO/decision makers, amount of sales, and number of employees.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (www.sec.gov). Salaries and stock holdings of top executives, as well as their corporate board memberships, are listed on proxy statements filed with the SEC. The information is available online through the SEC's EDGAR database.


For free information, you can't beat what the U.S. Government gives away. Government funding research begins with The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) (www.cfda.gov). Every federal funding program is listed in full detail. Click on "Search The Catalog (FAPRS)" to get to the very straightforward searching screen. CFDA contains over 1500 financial and non-financial assistance programs worth about $300 billion a year. Among them are: grants, loans, use of property, facilities, equipment, technical assistance, direct payments, insurance, advisory services and counseling, and training. The CFDA search tool is user-friendly. Use a keyword, subject, or phrase to search. A list appears of the programs that have that word anywhere in the entry. Click the program that interests you, and the entry in its entirety is shown.

Each entry contains: restrictions, eligibility, application & award process (including deadlines), assistance considerations (formula & matching requirements, timing), post assistance requirements, financial information, program accomplishments, regulations (guidelines), contacts, related programs, examples of funded projects, and criteria for selection. The Catalog is also available free in print at most public libraries.

More Government Access Points

Direct access to most of the federal agencies and departments is also available online. These sites give you more of a flavor of the departments and agencies and often give you detailed information on their grantmaking. If you know that you want to see the National Endowment for the Humanities, the site is www.neh.fed.us. Look at the "Overview of Programs" or "Grants & Applications" to get their details. A further sampling:
National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) Check out their "Grants & Contracts."
National Science Foundation (www.nsf.gov) Look at their "Grants & Funding Opportunities."
Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov) Use their SEARCH key to look for "grants."
Department of Education (www.ed.gov). Using their SEARCH key with the term "grants" turns up a large listing. The related site of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the DOE (gcs.ed.gov) offers an even more compact listing, "Grants & Contracts Information."
Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov). Look at the "Funding Announcements".
Some states, counties and even cities are beginning to list similar kinds of information on their home pages. For example, in Maine (www.state.me.us), there are over 3,000 matches to the search term "grants." In California, www.ca.gov brings up about 8000 pages under a quick search for "grants." Wyoming brings up over 4,000 grant links. In San Francisco (www.ci.sf.ca.us), not only do you access The City site but many departments with funding resources, too. You might check out the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women (www.ci.sf.ca.us./cosw), where among the items listed are several of their grants programs. Another San Francisco government site is Grants for the Arts (www.sfgfta.org). Call your city hall clerk and ask what local funding sources are available online. Your state/county/city home page is a rapidly expanding area so what you find next week may be much more extensive than what is available today.

Individual Donors

One of the best sources of basic information is your local newspaper. If the person is active in the community, there will usually be at least one article that gives you leads on his or her business or occupation, family connections, volunteer activities, social circles, professional organizations, etc. Check out your local newspaper to be sure. Many newspapers have their own websites with search engines so you can search for current or archived information (i.e. www.nytimes.com); some are free and some charge a fee for searching. Many newspaper archives still come on microfiche, which can be found at the library. Business journals often run feature articles on local business people and they often have their own Websites as well. Check out BizJournals (www.bizjournals.com) for information on the business journal in your area.

Some websites that allow you to do your own searching, are:

Internet Prospector People (www.internet-prospector.org/bio.html) A collection of people locators, capacity tools, and specialized directories, including among many others:

1. African Americans in Biography (www.internet-prospector.org/bio-afri.html) - access to the 100 wealthiest African-Americans (specifically not sports or entertainment people), lists of Black Greeks (fraternities and sororities), African-Americans in science, prominent African-Americans, and more.

2. Women in Biography (www.internet-prospector.org/bio-women.html) links to women in mathematics, engineering, physics, architecture, politics, air & space, National Hall of Fame, technology international, and other sites.

There are also commercial search services that allow you to search newspapers electronically from around the country for articles on donors/prospects. Three of the most popular commercial services are The Dialog Corporation (www.dialog.com), Lexis-Nexis (www.lexis-nexis.com/lncc), and (dowjones.wsj.com/p/main.html) Dow Jones News Retrieval .Another recent arrival on the scene is WealthKnowledge.com (www.WealthKnowledge.com) which specializes in identifying the wealthy and studying their behaviors and attitudes.

The Biography and Genealogy Master Index from the Gale Group (www.gale.com/servlet/BrowsePageServlet) has millions of entries on individuals from hundreds of biographical and business resources. If your prospect appears in any biographical or business reference book such as Who's Who or Standard & Poor's, the index will list the prospect and all the reference sources in which he or she appears. Birth dates and middle initials are included to help you verify that it is the correct person. This comes in book form, microfiche versions (know as BioBase), and now online through the Gale's online reference service.

The Complete Marquis Who's Who ONLINE combines 20 of its publications of professional and biographical data. This is accessible through the DIALOG Corporation's File #234, and includes: vital statistics (name, address, age, birthplace, marital status), and education, family background, religious and political history, creative works, civil and political activities, profession, and club memberships. There is a CD-ROM product The Complete Marquis Who's Who on CD-ROM (www.marquiswhoswho.com/product.html) available, which makes searching much easier.

Sites useful in nailing down addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses:

Four11 (www.Four11.com), "The Internet Whitepages," contains millions of listings allowing you to search for high school or college colleagues, former or current neighbors, co-workers, researchers in your field, members who enjoy the same chat groups or Usenet groups, and a dozen other definers.
Looking for celebrities? Try (www.celebrity-addresses.com). You can search, and be listed here, for a small fee, or try (www.celebfanmail.com) which had over 14,000 listings and offers nonprofits free access to their database.
555-1212 (www.555-1212.com) is a telephone directory for the US and Canada.
Yahoo! People Search (www.yahoo.com/search/people) allows you to find the elusive someone's telephone number or email address, and is linked to (www.USSearch.com), where for a fee you can find out details such as assets, home ownership, building ownership and value

Individual Business/Occupation Information

If you know your prospect is a practicing professional, there are many directories available to learn more about someone and his or her business. On the Web you can search Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (www.martindale.com) or West Legal Directory (www.lawoffice.com) for attorneys. The American Medical Association has a physician select search for members of the AMA (www.ama-assn.org/aps/amahg.htm). Hard copy books such as the Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists and Standard & Poor's Register of Directors and Executives are also good resources to confirm businesses and titles.

The Insider Trading Monitor compiles all SEC information on 10,000 public company insiders (covering over 200,000 executives, directors, and major shareholders). You can search for your prospect and see what his or her stock holdings are or if he or she has purchased or sold stock. This helps in estimating giving capacity and liquidity, and can be used to determine what type of gift, cash or planned, makes sense, particularly if capital gains are an issue. This information is only available on publicly traded companies, and only on stock that is held by a company insider. Private portfolio information is not included.

If your prospect works for a public company traded on a stock exchange, try the Edgar website (www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar). At this site, you search by company name or ticker symbol and have direct access to the proxy filed by the company in which you are interested. The proxy lists all the board members and top executives plus their stockholdings and salaries. Proxies often include brief bios telling you more about your prospect. Along with Insider Trading Monitor, the Edgar Online People website (edgar-online.com/people) lets you search (for a fee) SEC filings by a person's name to determine all the companies on whose boards he or she sits. You can always call the company and ask for a proxy statement and the annual report.

Many businesses, small and large, have their own web pages that contain profiles or bios of principal owners and managers. Commercial services such as The Dialog Corporation and Lexis-Nexis also have databases of company information and industry analysis. Hoovers (www.hoovers.com) contains over 12,500 profiles of corporations: snapshots are free; in-depth profiles entail a nominal monthly fee.

Depending on the size of the business, there are several other places to search. Use a local business directory or a local Book of Lists (www.bizjournals.com), or call the chamber of commerce to see if they have any information on your prospect's business. Standard business print references include Dun's Million Dollar Directory, American Business Disc, Duns Market Identifiers, Standard & Poor's, and Disclosure, both online and on CD-ROM. All provide information on a company's size, assets, sales and top officers. You can usually find an individual if he or she is one of the top five to ten officers of a public company. As a general rule, it tends to be more difficult to find information on a private company and the owner.

Other Wealth Indicators

The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries is a good general reference for what people earn in a wide range of professions. The Insider Trading Monitor is a commercial online service that is available through DIALOG or direct from Thomson Financial WealthID. Thomson Financial Wealth Identification, formerly CDA/Investnet, is the leading provider of wealth identification data, insider trading information, and innovative prospecting solutions. Since 1983, Wealth ID has been helping America's largest nonprofit organizations, banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms identify and track high net worth prospects, donors, and clients at (www.wealthid.com).

Local country club membership lists, other nonprofit organizations' annual reports and membership directories of civic and volunteer groups.

Copyright 2007 Zimmerman Lehman.


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