The European Parliament has approved new funding rules that are expected to make it easier for charities to apply for and receive European Union grants.
The decision was the last step needed to introduce rules known as the European Financial Regulation, which govern how all EU funding is administered.
This includes the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, both of which are likely to have several billion pounds of funding available for charities. The UK and the EU are currently involved in negotiations that will, by 2014, set the budgets for these two funds and create more specific rules for charities when they apply for funding.
The new regulation has set time limits for the funding process that mean charities should take a maximum of nine months to receive funding. At the moment, the process often takes well over a year.
Under the new regulation, charities can count in-kind payment and volunteering as match funding for lower-value grants, and can include the amount of VAT they pay in their costs when applying for grants.
The regulation has increased the threshold below which charities can use simpler administrative procedures, and also allows charities to build up surpluses and reserves without being penalised.
The new version of the regulation will comes into force in January 2013.
Filippo Addarii, executive director of the Euclid Network, the network for European leaders of third sector organisations, said the amendments had come about as the result of long campaigning by charitable bodies.
He said he expected the changes would make money available much more simply, quickly and cheaply.
"This is the first time that civil society and European officials worked together round the table to find joint solutions to cut red tape," he said. "Now this has to be scaled up."
He said the final decision came only after 10 months of discussion, more than 500 amendments and intense lobbying by the social sector.