Third Sector Awards: Introduction

This year's awards include some huge achievements and some real eye-openers, writes Stephen Cook, editor of Third Sector

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Year by year, the Third Sector Awards never fail to surprise you. Some of the winners are as you would expect – huge achievements, such as Unicef UK (Fundraising Event) raising about £2.5m in 40 minutes through its link with this year's Commonwealth Games, and demonstrations of sheer professionalism, such as Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (Fundraising Team) increasing its fundraised income by a third. Others are tried and tested activities done particularly well, such as Save the Children (Fundraising Campaign) pulling in more than £4m with its Christmas Jumper Day, helped by Samantha Cameron. And then there are the real eye-openers.

One such is the Shared Interest Society (Enterprise Award), which links investors in the UK with fair-trade organisations round the world that need funding. Under the radar, it has expanded into 65 countries, helping to finance 133 small producers. Another is Muntada Aid (Big Impact), which runs a programme called Little Hearts that has provided life-saving operations for 600 children around the world. A third is Guide Dogs with Microsoft (Corporate Partnership), who together produced an app called Cities Unlocked that helps unsighted people make their way around more safely. Winners like this are testament to the sector's unstoppable innovation on behalf of beneficiaries and wider social causes, domestically and worldwide.

And behind all these initiatives are exceptional people, such as Claire Jenkins (Volunteer Manager) at Grow Movement, who organises 900 volunteers in five continents to support African entrepreneurs, and Caitlin Dean (Charity Chair) who leads Pregnancy Sickness Support as well as running a sheep farm. In Britain's Most Admired Charities, run in parallel with the Third Sector Awards, the individual roll of honour is completed by Lesley-Anne Alexander of the RNIB (Most Admired Chief Executive) and Sir Lenny Henry (Celebrity Charity Champion). He's been a lynchpin of Comic Relief right from the start.

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