Shapeshifting is what happens when an organization changes corporate form – usually shifting from nonprofit to for-profit. In the 1990s dozens of health care organizations and hospitals made this shift, spinning off philanthropic foundations with billions in assets. Since 2000 we’ve seen this in other sectors, including student loan providers. The sale of nonprofit Jumo to for-profit GOOD raised the issue again in the summer of 2011.
Two other notable instances of shapeshifting that received less attention were the conversion of website verification firm TRUSTe and the online community site Couchsurfing. These last two shifts were accompanied by significant venture capital investment. Shapeshifting raises valuable questions about the range of organizations that can produce social good , their relative effectiveness, and the role of both private and philanthropic capital in catalyzing these enterprises.