The community groups' code of practice is the fifth and final code to be launched under the compact agreement on relations between the Government and sector.
"With the launch of the community code, the compact finally reaches a state of apparent completion," said Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO. "The new code will undoubtedly make a real difference."
But doubts remain over the enforcement of the agreement's main principles.
"We are broadly supportive of the sentiment but we are really concerned that the code won't have any credibility with local groups and there are enormous problems about buy-in from local authorities," said Ben Hughes, chief executive of the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres, which was involved in drafting the code.
The code, which follows similar guidelines on funding, consultation, volunteering and black and minority ethnic groups, comes two years after consultations with the community sector first began.
It has the potential to offer community groups greater protection than ever because it recognises that most of them work at the local level with local authorities rather than with central government.
It is also designed to appreciate that community groups are often based on an informal structure.