Charities must have a say in how local enterprise partnerships spend more than £5bn of European funding, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said.
Local enterprise partnerships, the bodies set up to help businesses and local councils in England work together, will determine how the money will be spent between 2014 and 2020.
But analysis by the NCVO has found that only 14 of the 39 LEPs in England have representatives from the voluntary sector on their boards.
The money can be used for various projects, such as supporting local business and building local skills, but under EU funding proposals at least 20 per cent should be spent on social inclusion projects.
The guidance says: "The European Union’s rules make it clear that LEPs must work with a wide range of partners in developing and delivering their investment strategies. These include, among others, businesses, trade unions, local authorities, civil society, rural partners, environmental interests, equality and non-discrimination bodies and further and higher education."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said that more needed to be done to involve the voluntary sector in LEPs, which replaced regional development agencies.
"Local charities and social enterprises have a vital role to play in the delivery of the funds, and we will be writing to LEP chairs to offer examples of how to engage with their local sector in a strategic way."
"I am determined that NCVO members, whose experience and knowledge of the needs of people in their areas is unrivalled, have a say in how this key funding is allocated," he said.
The NCVO said it was working with local partners in its European Funding Network, as well as with the local infrastructure umbrella body Navca, Social Enterprise UK, and Cooperatives UK, to help charities build closer links with LEPs.