When Third Sector held a series of panel discussions about the recession last year, a consistent theme from the participants was that an economic downturn was an opportunity for innovation and collaboration. It's a message that has clearly been taken to heart by many of the winners of this year's Third Sector Excellence Awards.
Care International UK devised a new way of using the internet to hold on to supporters recruited by face-to-face fundraising; the Ramblers finally bit the bullet and modernised their whole proposition; the Create Foundation found a smarter way to run a charity shop; and North Devon Hospice thought outside the box and decided to raise money by - of all things - holding sheepdog trials. There's clearly no lack of imagination out there.
Then there's collaboration, which comes to the fore mainly in the partnership categories of the awards. Citizens Advice was involved both in giving advice to cancer sufferers in tandem with Macmillan Cancer Support and in helping single mothers in a four-cornered arrangement with Barclaycard, Family Action and Gingerbread. Toynbee Hall teamed up successfully with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to protect people from loan sharks.
But not all problems are solved by innovation and collaboration. Two other winners are outstanding examples of a different sort of reaction to straitened times - cutting costs while minimising damage to services. North Devon Hospice won a second category - Financial Management - for reducing unnecessary management processes and hiring eight new staff with the money saved. Safer Wales lost nearly a quarter of its budget, but managed to take advantage of some training opportunities and negotiate a new deal with its staff, losing only three posts.
Then, as always, there are the campaigns and individuals that would impress you or make you smile, no matter what the state of the economy. There's Beatbullying's shockingly effective campaign involving the girl with her mouth sewn shut; there's the unstoppable Rebecca Smith, our Volunteer of the Year; and there's Shelter's irrepressible fundraising team, banging gongs and pouring wine when they score a hit and playing conkers and croquet together in their time off. Fundraisers - where would the world be without them?