Third Sector Excellence Awards 2012: Introduction

This year's winners show how charities are as active as ever, coming up with brilliant new ideas for campaigning, fundraising and working in partnership

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

One of the striking things about the Third Sector Excellence Awards this year is the high proportion among the winners of charities that look after vulnerable beneficiaries or tackle some of the country's most pressing causes.

Mencap and Enable Scotland win Corporate Partnership, the Alzheimer's Society wins Fundraising Team, Diabetes UK wins Use of Digital Media ... the list goes on.

Another notable aspect is the way beneficiaries also contribute to the work the charities do. Liliane Umubyeyi, chair of the Survivors Fund and winner of Charity Chair of the Year, is herself a refugee from the Rwandan genocide; 10 per cent of the staff of Phoenix Futures, the drug and alcohol charity that wins Best Employer, are former beneficiaries; and our two Volunteers of the Year, Alex Williams and Hannah Louise Jones, have both been beneficiaries of the charities they have helped. Williams, sadly, passed away in August.

The first message here is that charities are as active as ever, coming up with brilliant new ideas for campaigning, fundraising and working in partnership. The second is that many charities are as much about self-help as they are about seeking help from the rest of us - they're not just passive recipients.

My favourites this year include the Prison Radio Association and Victim Support, winning Charity Partnership by promoting restorative justice with broadcast meetings between offenders and victims, and Reprieve, winning Communications Team, working to halt the sale of drugs used for executions in other countries.

Another good one is the British Heart Foundation, winning Communications Campaign with Hands-only CPR, an advert in which Vinnie Jones pumps the chest of a heart attack victim. It's entertaining, but memorable as well. Then there's Giveacar, winner of Innovation in Fundraising, which was founded by a student who turned an off-the-wall idea into a great success.

Lifetime Achievement goes to Dame Mary Marsh, not least for her commitment to a stronger future for charities through the Clore Social Leadership Programme. She gets results by being calm, thoughtful and persistent, and she has given the sector's future leaders an outstanding example to follow.

- Read about the winning entries

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