Charitable Partnerships Enhance Downtown Events

In Millburn-Short Hills, NJ, Restaurant Week has turned into a springtime traffic driver.

The event debuted in March 2023, then returned in March 2024. Restaurant Week is organized by Explore Millburn-Short Hills, a special improvement district, and involves some 40 restaurants and boutiques offering 60 specials.

Steve Grillo, executive director of Explore Millburn-Short Hills, says organizers took some important steps to make the event a success, and they learned valuable lessons. One of the most important lessons: Create a charitable partnership.

Explore Millburn-Short Hills partnered with Opportunity Project, a local nonprofit organization that supports individuals with brain injuries. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, so the timing meshed.

Explore Millburn-Short Hills offered Opportunity Project a way to fundraise directly through restaurant sales and donations. During the inaugural Restaurant Week, Opportunity Project raised $6,000 from donations.

Some restaurants embraced the charitable angle. Jack’s Lobster Shack, for example, created a line of branded apparel and donated a portion of the proceeds. At least two other businesses worked to hire staff from the organization.

“Having a partner who brought so much goodwill to the event elevated Restaurant Week’s meaning and created a true feeling of community benefit,” Grillo says.

More on partnering with local organizations appears in the pages of Downtown Idea Exchange newsletter. Click below to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors.

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