Philanthropic support has been essential to the NVRI funding model since its inception. Contributions from Lions International resulted in the establishment of the Lions Vision Research Fund in 1979, which, along with other Lions contributions continues to provide valuable funding to the NVRI each year. Also in 1979, South Australian optometrist Donald Schultz and his wife Joyce donated $250,000 to the NVRI. As a result, the Schultz, Laubman, Schultz Endowment Fund was created to help fund NVRI research activities. In 2001, the Schultz family donated a further $3.5million to the endowment fund. Most operational funds today come from competitive Government grants from the NHMRC and Australian Research Council, and several overseas granting bodies.
In its almost 50 year history, the NVRI has researched a broad range of visual topics including quantitative eye charts, developmental disorders of vision, retinal development, visual impairment, lens biochemistry, comparative visual neuroscience, colour vision, understanding the visual brain, prosthetic vision devices, neurotechnology and visual perception.
The NVRI has always been closely linked with the University of Melbourne. The current Director, Professor Michael Ibbotson is a Professor in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences and the NVRI hosts their Honours and PhD students. A Memorandum of Understanding has been in place since 2015 that formalizes the strong relationship between the two organizations.
Today the NVRI still sells the LogMAR chart to optometrists and other health care providers around the world. Former researchers have received international awards of high distinction including the Order of Australia. The NVRI is a highly-regarded institute undertaking important research on the eye and visual system, publishing output in high impact peer reviewed journals and presenting at conferences internationally.