Charities could miss out on funding opportunities and the chance to influence decisions on policing if they do not prepare for government plans to elect police commissioners, according to a group advising voluntary organisations.
Elected police and crime commissioners will replace police authorities in England and Wales from November 2012.
They will help to set police strategy and budgets, oversee the work of chief constables and work with local community groups to cut crime. Commissioners will also have grant-making powers to support local organisations in their work.
A poll carried out by Safer Future Communities, a group of eight organisations set up to help voluntary sector organisations prepare for the changes and run by the membership body Clinks, found that one in three people working for voluntary organisations involved in community safety had not heard about the forthcoming reforms.
A spokesman for SFC said: "The sector needs to get behind these changes or there is a risk of charities being pushed out.
"Charities will have a crucial role to play in advocating the interests of people who might not necessarily take part in elections, particularly children and immigrants."
Clive Martin, director of Clinks, which supports voluntary sector organisations that work with offenders, said: "More work needs to be done to help local organisations collaborate with one another in their efforts to make a difference. Currently only one in five local groups thinks it is likely that it will join forces with others, but we hope to drive that figure up by the time the reforms come into play next year."
The Home Office will hold a series of events in the new year to offer guidance to voluntary organisations that will be affected by the reforms.