Date of Award

Fall 10-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Public Service


Public Administration and Policy

Committee Director

Juita-Elena (Wie) Yusuf

Committee Member

Wendy Scott

Committee Member

Marina Saitgalina


Environmental nonprofit organizations have emerged to attend to the environmental needs of individuals and communities. Some of these needs are usually those that have been neglected, given insufficient attention, or cannot be singularly handled by the government. In advocating for coastal resilience, environmental nonprofits have been identified as actors who address coastal issues like sea-level rise, flooding, and shoreline management.

Shoreline management involves building setbacks and formulating short and long-term defense strategies such as building living shorelines, ripraps, bulkheads, and tree plantings. These strategies formed the basis of coastal defense in coastal zones. Shoreline management is a significant area of focus pivotal for achieving coastal resilience. This research examines the roles and challenges of Virginia environmental nonprofit organizations in shoreline management and their implications for coastal resilience. Putting the “roles” and “challenges” in context, this research seeks to examine the kinds of activities (roles) Virginia environmental nonprofits perform or offer to improve shoreline management for coastal resilience. It also seeks to address the obstacles environmental nonprofits confront or experience in performing such activities (challenges).

This study’s research questions are: (1) What are the perspectives of Virginia environmental nonprofits in terms of functions and roles they play as stewards of shoreline management for coastal resilience? (2) How do Virginia environmental nonprofits consider their roles and functions in shoreline management for coastal resilience in terms of their effectiveness in performing their roles and functions? (3) What factors affect Virginia environmental nonprofits’ functions and roles as stewards of shoreline management for coastal resilience based on their organizations’ interests, experiences, and efforts? These questions pose a need for exploration and analysis of environmental nonprofit organizations’ views on their roles and challenges on the subject matter, with a more explicit aim of identifying the part they play, the problems they face, and the feasible solutions to such problems. Using Virginia environmental nonprofits as a case study, this research examines and analyzes environmental nonprofits’ roles and challenges in shoreline management for coastal resilience.

The study adopts the stewardship theory and structural-functionalist theory. A conceptual framework was also developed to explain how the study’s research questions, theories, literature review, and findings make synergistic connections. The research also employs a qualitative approach with a case study design that adopts triangulation as a data collection method. In this case, interviews and document analyses of environmental nonprofits charting impact questions and data on nonprofit organizations’ websites. Eighty-five environmental nonprofit organizations serve as the population sample of this study. The document analysis was carried out on the available documents provided by these sample organizations. The analyses addressed five standard charting impact questions on the GuideStar and Charity Navigator databases. It triangulated the five standard questions with environmental nonprofit organizations’ reports and other relevant data on their websites. Following this, a snowball sample strategy was used to conduct interview sessions with 15 Virginia environmental nonprofit organizations, comprising 19 representatives.

The study findings from interviews, reports, and charting impact questions analysis brought about themes common to all or most organizations in the triangulated qualitative analysis. The five major and most recurring themes for environmental nonprofits' roles in shoreline management include: (1) shoreline conservation, restoration, and stabilization; (2) community engagement, collaborations, and partnerships; (3) education training, outreach, and advising; (4) mapping and (5) advocacy. These made up the themes that detail environmental nonprofit organizations’ roles in shoreline management for coastal resilience. There are three challenges-related themes identified from the analysis. They include: (1) funding, and vulnerable communities' access to resources; (2) issues with shoreline management practices; (3) permitting process. Based on findings, the study provides implications and recommends how these roles can be enhanced and how the challenges can be further ameliorated.


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