The £30m Community First grants fund, which will provide small grants to community groups, is now seeking members for 600 grant-giving panels, the Office for Civil Society announced yesterday.
The fund will give grants in the 600 most deprived wards in England through panels that will be set up by people living in them. Once created, each panel will be able to access funds and start giving grants in its local area. Charities interested in receiving funds will have to apply to their local panels.
Lesley Chambers, director of programmes at the Community Development Foundation, which will administer the programme on behalf of the OCS, said: "Anyone can apply to be on a panel and anyone can register a panel with us. In theory, if a community is able to set up a panel tomorrow, it can start giving grants tomorrow.
"It might not take some communities very long to set up these panels. For others, it might take a few weeks."
Each panel will have between £17,000 and £200,000 to give away over a four-year period, depending on the level of social problems in their wards.
In order to receive a grant from the panel, projects must be able to attract match funding from elsewhere. However, charities will be able to count volunteer time as match funding.
The supermarket chain Asda will provide publicity and support for the programme at both local and national levels. In many areas, charities will also be able to access match funding from the Asda Foundation.
The Community First programme includes a £50m endowment fund, which will be available only once £100m in match funding has been raised from other sources. The fund is currently raising money, but charities will not be able to apply to that tranche of the programme until 2015.