Our vision lies at the heart of our grant-making. We will focus on areas where the law is not serving New Zealanders well. Our initial (but not exclusive) strategic focus areas are the criminal justice system and family law. Whether we are doing proactive or reactive grant-making, we will consider the same three elements: eligibility, our guiding principles and exclusions.

How we fund

We want to move beyond transactional grant-making. As an independent philanthropic organisation, we plan to do a mix of both ‘proactive grant-making’ and also openly solicited grant applications.

We will actively seek out high-performing individuals and organisations who can contribute to our vision. We will also periodically run an open Expressions of Interest process for grants. We plan to continue to experiment and improve on our grant-making as we go.

Whether ‘proactive’ or ‘reactive’ grant-making, we consider the same elements when deciding who and what to fund. Read these sections carefully:

  • Eligibility
  • Guiding principles for grant funding
  • Exclusions list

To understand the thinking behind how we do ‘grant-making’ read ‘Our approach to philanthropy' and check out who we’ve been inspired by.

If we fund your project, expect us to remain interested and engaged – in a helpful way. We will meet with you as regularly as is appropriate, depending on the size and complexity of the grant. This ensures open communication on progress and any issues that you might want to raise with us. We will contribute where we have value to add. Where we don’t have value to add, we will stay out of the way so you can focus on the work.

We also aim to minimise bureaucracy or paperwork. We fund on the basis of agreed milestones, not on the production of receipts.

We view grant-making as a partnership between us as the ‘Grantor’ and you as the ‘doer’. The Borrin Foundation needs talented, high-performing people as much as you may need us. We both contribute to the vision of Aotearoa New Zealand in different ways. Our relationship with you is key to the achievement of our shared goals.


The Borrin Foundation’s trust deed governs our grant-making. Our grants can fund work in the following areas:

  • Legal research: this may include socio-legal research, multi-disciplinary research, applied research, action research, evaluation work or dissemination of research. It may also include pulling together existing research, or research in preparation for a larger project or service.
  • Legal writing: this may include a wide variety of writing about any topic related to the law or the legal system.
  • Legal education: this may include providing information about legal matters, rights or obligations; providing workshops and seminars for the public or practitioners; or providing education to a variety of age groups about legal or constitutional matters.
  • Legal lectures: this may include presentations, conferences or symposium.
  • We can also fund work that ‘promotes the undertaking’ of any of the above.

To be eligible for grant funding your proposal must:

  • fit into one or more of the above areas
  • benefit New Zealand.

Note: We will have separate eligibility and guiding principles for our scholarships funding.

Guiding principles for grant funding

Our guiding principles for grant funding help the Grants and Scholarships Committee to make decisions about which projects should receive funding. Make sure you understand the guiding principles when considering whether your project idea is a good fit for Borrin Foundation funding.

We aim to fund high-performing people and organisations whose knowledge, skills, commitment and passion will contribute long-term to the achievement of our vision.

Our funding, through grants, will take into account the potential of a proposal to:

  • have a significant and enduring practical impact on the lives of New Zealanders
  • be a catalyst for change
  • address systemic issues
  • build capacity
  • engage the broader legal community including practitioners, policymakers, judges and academics
  • develop insights into our legal system through inter-disciplinary collaboration
  • target areas that are either under-resourced or under-developed and where there is a clear need for external support.


Generally we do not fund:

  • existing mainstream academic activities or facilities in schools, universities or other educational institutions, unless they are innovative in terms of delivery or access
  • activities where our funding is likely to be viewed as a substitute for public funding
  • government organisations (with the exception of independent statutory bodies, if public funding for the relevant project would not otherwise be available)
  • profit-making projects – however, we may fund a repayable subsidy, which requires repayments to be made to offset the cost of the original grant
  • international projects that do not benefit the people of New Zealand – funding may be contributed to an international project if a component benefits New Zealanders, or if there is a demonstrable benefit to New Zealand from the wider project
  • retrospective grants – to cover spending incurred before an application.

Terms and conditions

A grant from the Borrin Foundation is a donation/gift, but it does come with terms and conditions. Click the link below to read our standard grant letter and grant agreement, which outlines our standard conditions for Borrin Foundation grants. Make sure you understand these terms and conditions before submitting an Expression of Interest or progressing your proposal.

GST treatment in grants

A Borrin Foundation grant is regarded as an 'unconditional gift' for tax purposes. There is no contract between the Borrin Foundation and the grantee partner for any exchange of goods or services. The grant payments are not payments in return for services and you will not be issuing invoices to us.

Therefore, you should not add GST to your estimation of required funds in your grant proposal.

Your proposed or estimated budget for grant funding must list the ‘real costs’ only.

  • If you/your organisation is GST-registered, your 'real costs' are EXCLUSIVE of GST. This is because you will be claiming back any GST yourself and it will be cost-neutral for you.
  • If you/your organisation is not GST-registered, your 'real costs' are INCLUSIVE of GST. This is because you will not be able to claim back the GST.

Either way, do not add GST costs on top of your estimated ‘real costs’.

Please state in your grant proposal whether you/your organisation is GST-registered or not and make clear which of the above options apply.

Intellectual property

We are committed to maximising the impact of the work we fund. We will share and build upon the work we support to advance collective knowledge.

The Borrin Foundation does not become the owner of any intellectual property created through grant projects. However, we do ask our grantees to commit to making some form of the work freely and publicly available for the ‘public good’. This is discussed with each grantee and varies with each grant project.

Making important work freely and publicly available adds to the 'Global Commons'.  We encourage the use, where practicable, of Creative Commons Licenses.

We acknowledge and accept that many grantees, in particular academics, will also wish to publish a different form of the funded work in peer-reviewed journals or other copyright-restricted forms.

University overheads

As a small not-for-profit organisation, our grants do not cover ‘university overheads’. We apply this consistently across all universities. However, our grants will cover university staff salaries and teaching 'buy-outs'.

As they say, ‘knowledge is the only resource that increases with use’. We want to see the work we fund used by as many people as possible.

Initial strategic focus areas

The criminal justice system and family law are the Borrin Foundation’s initial strategic focus areas. Our 2018 inaugural grant projects reflect these areas of focus. These were also areas of deep concern to our founder, the late Judge Ian Borrin.

Criminal justice system

New Zealand’s criminal justice system is clearly an area of ‘profound concern’ where transformative change is needed.

  • New Zealand’s incarceration rate is second
    only to the United States among Western developed nations.
  • The social and economic cost of imprisoning so
    many New Zealanders – with Māori disproportionately represented – is very high.
  • We need to understand how this has come about, and whether there are better – more effective and less costly – ways to achieve the goals of our criminal justice system.

Family law

Family law touches many aspects of New Zealanders’ lives, often when they are at their most vulnerable. Current family law issues include access to law, timeliness and affordability, and fairness of outcomes.

  • We need a better understanding of the current practical operation of family law in New Zealand.
  • We need to think creatively about how we can ensure that the protection of family law extends to all New Zealanders.
  • The Borrin Foundation is committed to supporting research into how our family laws and institutions can become more accessible, more responsive and more effective.

2018 Expression of Interest (EOI) and proposal process

While our 2018 Expressions of Interest (EOI) for funding round has closed, you may be interested in reading about it below:

We're here to make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders, through the law. Our 2018 EOI round was a call for great project ideas that contribute to our vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The criminal justice system and family law are our initial strategic focus areas. But they aren’t the only areas we are interested in.

We aimed to cast our net wide and wanted to hear about any ideas and initiatives that align with our vision, mission and guiding principles.

Make sure you understand what we're about and what we're looking for. Read about how we fund, our vision, guiding principles in the sections above.

Then read the information and guidance about the EOI process below. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Borrin Foundation’s first round of open and contestable funding involves a two-stage process:

  1. you submit a brief EOI
  2. if shortlisted, you are invited to provide a more extensive proposal, and you may be asked to meet with us in person.

We are conscious of the time and effort that people put in to completing detailed grant applications. And only a very few actually receive funding. We’ve designed our EOI process to save your time and our time. Your initial brief EOI submission will enable us to identify whether your initiative aligns with our vision and guiding principles. Only those selected for the second stage will be asked to submit a fuller proposal. The proposal will also be commensurate with the size of your project.

Dates and timeline: 2018 EOI & proposal process

2018 is our first year of running an EOI and proposal process. We don’t know how many EOIs we will receive. Because of this uncertainty, all time-frames after 30 April are indicative only. We will update our timeline as the year progresses.

  • Wednesday 14 March: EOIs open via the online form on our website.
  • We encourage early submission of EOIs.
  • We also encourage early questions and contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.
  • Tuesday 10 April: Deadline for any questions or enquiries about your potential EOI. Questions and enquiries should be submitted via the online contact form during the first weeks of the EOI period.
  • We will publish and share all generic questions and answers on our Frequently Asked Questions page. We will not share private information or information that is specific to your EOI without your consent.
  • Monday 30 April, 12 noon: EOIs close (see important note below about closing date).
  • June: Shortlisted EOIs informed, unsuccessful EOIs informed.
  • July: Full proposals due plus an opportunity to present and discuss your proposal with the Grants and Scholarships Committee and each other.
  • August/September: Successful and unsuccessful proposals from the RFP stage advised.
  • October/November: early projects projected to begin.

Important note about the EOI deadline of 30 April 2018, noon NZ Time:

Please get your EOI in early. This is the first time we are using our online EOI form, and you may experience technical difficulties.

  • Get your EOI in at least 3-7 days before the closing time in case there are technical problems. (It is a Google Form). 
  • We accept no responsibility for technical problems with the online process.
  • EOI deadline is in New Zealand Time. EOIs close at midday (NZ Time), not midnight.

We also strongly encourage early submission of EOIs in case we see something missing or not quite right in your EOI. In this case we can contact you for more information or to correct the problem before the deadline.

Preparing your EOI

You should prepare well for your EOI. Although it is short, it will require some thought and ‘homework’.

Getting started:

Before you begin your EOI, read our website carefully. 

Here are some the questions you can expect to be asked in the online EOI application form:

  • What? What is your project title? Tell us about your project. (300 words max)
  • Who? Who are the people who will carry out this project? Who is the lead person? Who are the other people involved? 
  • Why? Why is this project needed? Why is this work important for New Zealand? How does it fit with the Borrin Foundation's vision and guiding principles? (250 words max)
  • When and how? How long will this project last and when do you expect to start? If possible, briefly outline your work plan or research plan. (100 words max)
  • How much? What is your estimated budget for this project and how much funding are you seeking from the Borrin Foundation? What other avenues of funding may be available to you and what are you also pursuing? Are you applying to any other funders? If so, which?

Documents for EOI preparation

Here are two helpful documents for you:

Managing expectations

We are likely to receive many more applications for funding than we can possibly grant. The hard part for foundations like ours is that we cannot fund everything we want to fund.

Your EOI or proposal may not be accepted for all sorts of reasons. If you are not shortlisted, it is not a reflection of the quality or the effectiveness of what you do. Please bear in mind that the need for funding will always far outweigh the available grant funds.

The amount available for funding each year will vary according to the performance of our investments. At this stage, we envisage around $1 million to $1.5 million will be available each year.

EOI online form

Our online Expression of Interest form is a google form. It is open 14 March 2018 to midday 30 April 2018.

Our EOI round is now closed. We are no longer accepting EOIs. Thank you to all those who have submitted an Expression of Interest.

Borrin Foundation-New Zealand Law Foundation Collaborative Relationship

The Borrin Foundation and the New Zealand Law Foundation (NZLF) have a collaborative relationship. This includes a commitment from the Borrin Foundation to annually contribute up to $150,000 to co-funded projects with the New Zealand Law Foundation. We encourage academics and researchers to continue to apply for NZLF funding. If you believe your application to the Law Foundation is suitable for NZLF-Borrin co-funding, you should note that in your application to the NZLF.

NZLF is a registered charity that also provides grants for legal research, public education on legal matters and legal training.  It supports a wide variety of research in law and has several openly contestable grant rounds each year. In 2019 the deadlines for applications to the New Zealand Law Foundation are:

  1. Monday 24th February 2020
  2. Monday 31st July 2020

We aim to be complementary to the Law Foundation so please continue to apply to the NZLF for projects that you would normally apply to the NZLF for. Please visit the Law Foundation.