Richard Handover, former chief executive and chair of the retailer WHSmith, has been appointed chair of Power to Change, a £150m Big Lottery Fund grants programme.
Handover, who was chief executive of WHSmith from 1996 to 2003 and the company’s chair between 2003 and 2005, has also been a non-executive director of the Royal Mail and the Nationwide building society.
Power to Change, which was announced by the BLF last year, will invest in community enterprises that engage directly with local communities.
A community enterprise is defined by the funder as one in which the lead partner is a charity, a social enterprise, a not-for-profit body or a cooperative.
The fund will open to applications in the autumn.
The programme is also be backed by the publishing company Trinity Mirror, which will publish stories about the fund’s successes in the Daily Mirror on an informal basis.
Power To Change has appointed four other directors, who will join Handover in overseeing the fund.
They are: Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society; Graeme Oram, chief executive of Five Lamps, a social enterprise based in Teesside; David Goddard, a client director of Telereal Trillium, a real-estate and investment company; and Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the independent think tank the Resolution Foundation.
A spokeswoman for the Big Lottery Fund said it was too early to say how much funding community enterprises would be able to apply for, how many would receive grants or how the application process would work.
Handover said: "I am looking forward to working with my fellow directors to support enterprising communities up and down the country. We know there are a number of communities out there already making a positive difference."
The Big Lottery Fund has also doubled the number and total value of grants it will make under its Silver Dreams Fund, which helps older people become more involved in their communities, to £10m.
The BLF said the fund received proposals of outstanding quality, which built on the successes of the original Silver Dreams Fund pilot projects. Ten projects will receive £1m each, including Hen Power, a project with older people in Gateshead that teaches them to become proficient hen-keepers.