In May, the viewing figures for the Community Channel – the 24-hour TV channel that focuses on issues in the third sector – reached 2.7 million for the first time.
According to Alex Kann, director of Community Channel and Audiences at the communications charity the Media Trust, the increase in viewer numbers can be attributed to the launch of a 24-hour HD channel and the extension of the channel's Freeview times to 21 hours a day.
The Community Channel was started by the Media Trust in 2000 and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the City Bridge Trust. Kann says it is time for charities to take advantage of the channel's resources, which include broadcast and distribution opportunities for the programmes they make, media training and Community Newswire, a press distribution service run with the Press Association.
"We work with hundreds of charities each year, but we are always keen to work with more charities and to work better with them," says Kann. "The channel is here to help raise the profile of charities, their stories and campaigns. It's a great way for charities to secure press coverage and awareness at national and regional level."
So how can charities get involved? The channel sets its editorial calendar several months in advance of every broadcast, so the best place to start would be by signing up for the channel's newsletter to receive information about programmes and content that are in the pipeline.
Kann says the platform is always open to new ideas from charities, but it does have a number of set programming formats for which charities can pitch. Most of these fall under the remit of Do Something Brilliant, a three-year campaign launched in 2013 to provide charities and communities with a platform from which they can encourage people to get involved with their causes.
The campaign includes the Brilliant Britain series, in which the channel works with production teams across the UK to showcase local charity stories; the My Brilliant Moment short films, in which charity and community leaders talk about the events that inspired their organisations; and the Little Brilliant Things campaign, run online, that allows charities to publicise volunteering and other opportunities.
Kann says Do Something Brilliant focuses on four overarching themes: Do Something Active (trying to get people involved in community sports), Do Something Creative, Do Something Together and Do Something Green (programmes that inspire people to engage in conservation). Every month, the channel focuses on a different subject within these themes; July's theme was "homes and heritage", about people relocating and taking care of their local areas, and this month the channel is going to tackle the "science of the everyday", looking at charities that are involved in innovation.
"We also broadcast many documentaries made by charities - sometimes co-produced by us – that are just great films, but not necessarily associated with any overarching theme," says Kann. The Easy Riders was a 10-part series that charted a fundraising jaunt from the UK to Valencia in Spain. Co-produced by Riders for Health, a charity that provides motorcycle transportation for health workers in developing countries, and the Community Channel, it led to coverage on Sky News and in the Daily Mail.
Kann says smaller charities that might never gain access to mainstream TV channels have as much of a chance as anyone of getting coverage on the Community Channel. "We love working with medium-sized and smaller charities," he says. "They have more to gain than the larger charities from getting exposure on a national TV platform and from the press coverage and social media profile that we can offer.
"We do work with some larger charities, particularly on news distribution, but we find that we add the most value to some of the lesser-resourced charities out there."