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

Our approach to grant-making goes beyond transactional grant-making. As an independent philanthropic organisation, we do a mix of both ‘proactive grant-making’ as well as openly solicited grant applications.

We actively seek out, and are open to approaches from, high-performing individuals and organisations with ideas and initiatives that can contribute to our vision. From time to time we may also run an Expressions of Interest process for grants.

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. Our approach is to do more than give. 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
  • operating costs for business as usual.

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.

Template -Terms and Conditions – Borrin Foundation Grant Letter and Agreement 2020.pdf 

GST treatment in grants

A Borrin Foundation grant is an unconditional gift. There is no contract between the Borrin Foundation and the grantee for any exchange of goods or services. The grant payments are not payments in return for services.

The grants may be considered taxable and also may be subject to GST depending on your particular circumstances. Because individual situations are unique to each person/organisation, grantees are responsible for determining their own tax obligations. You may wish to seek tax advice in preparing a budget as part of a grant proposal.

Please state in your grant proposal whether your budget is GST inclusive or exclusive.

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.

While these are our initial strategic focus areas, they aren’t the only areas we are interested in.

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

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. 

  • 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.

Managing expectations

We are likely to receive many more expressions of interest 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 proposal may not be accepted for many 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.

Borrin Foundation-New Zealand Law Foundation Collaborative Relationship

The Borrin Foundation and the New Zealand Law Foundation have a collaborative relationship. This has previously included a commitment from the Borrin Foundation to annually contribute up to $150,000 to co-fund projects with the New Zealand Law Foundation. 

The New Zealand Law Foundation is a registered charity that also provides grants for legal research, public education on legal matters and legal training. The Foundation is now in recess to allow its funding base to rebuild so that, in time, it can support a new generation of legal research. The Foundation’s last funding was round closed in July 2020. For more information see the Law Foundation website.