Given the barrage of negative press coverage and political sniping about the sector in recent months, it would be easy to forget the outstanding work that continues to be done by UK charities at home and around the world.
This year's Third Sector Awards served as a reminder of this. Among the winners of the 23 awards are charities that excel at helping people with disabilities, working for an end to homophobic and gender discrimination, looking after abandoned animals, and providing development and medical services overseas. They were an annual showcase of excellence.
The awards were presented this year at a ceremony at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London on 24 September. Winners included Look Good Feel Better, a charity that offers beauty advice to women undergoing cancer treatment. It won the Marketing Campaign award for #Warpaint4Life, an initiative to which the advertising industry donated digital billboard space across London to help raise awareness of the charity's work.
Social media campaigns featured heavily among the winners. For example, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust won best Communications Campaign for #SmearForSmear, which encouraged women to use social media to post "selfies" of themselves with smeared lipstick to remind younger women of the importance of smear tests. And WaterAid's To Be A Girl, winner of the Digital Marketing Campaign award, used social media to raise funds and awareness of the lack of clean water and toilet facilities for girls living in poorer countries.
The awards also recognised the exceptional efforts of individuals in the sector, such as Dallas Pounds, chief executive of the Royal Trinity Hospice, who won the award for best Rising Chief Executive for putting the south London hospice on a firmer financial footing during her first two years in charge.
For the second year, the Britain's Most Admired Charities awards, which are decided in a vote by the chief executives of charities, were presented on the same night. The Alzheimer's Society won Most Admired Charity, the RNIB's Lesley-Anne Alexander was named Most Admired Chief Executive and Sir Lenny Henry won Celebrity Charity Champion.
More details about this year's winners can be found on the website: www.thirdsector.co.uk/third-sector-awards-2015.
And the winners are…
Brand Development RNLI
Communications Campaign Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust
Marketing Campaign Look Good Feel Better
Digital Innovation Royal Mencap Society
Digital Marketing Campaign WaterAid
Annual Report Keech Hospice Care
Enterprise Award: Shared Interest Society
Social Investment Award: Golden Lane Housing
Breakthrough of the Year: Quaker Social Action
Fundraising Event: Unicef UK
Fundraising Campaign: Save the Children
Fundraising Team: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
Volunteer Manager: Claire Jenkins, Grow Movement
Volunteer of the Year: Alice Walker-Shakespeare, Chicks
Corporate Partnership: Guide Dogs with Microsoft
Charity Partnership: The Big Give with the Charities Trust
Small Charity, Big Achiever: Diversity Role Models
Big Impact Award: Muntada Aid
Charity Chair of the Year: Caitlin Dean, Pregnancy Sickness Support
Rising Chief Executive: Dallas Pounds, Royal Trinity Hospice
Britain's Most Admired Charities
Most Admired Charity: Alzheimer's Society
Most Admired Chief Executive: Lesley-Anne Alexander, RNIB
Celebrity Charity Champion: Sir Lenny Henry