FD in Five Minutes: Philip Dunn

Third Sector speaks to the executive director of finance and operations at Alzheimer's Research UK

Philip Dunn
Philip Dunn

Why did you choose finance as a career?

From an early age, I always preferred numbers to language. Even at 12 years old, I’d play around making mini profit-and-loss accounts. For me, though, finance is never just about numbers, but about seeking the wider knowledge to put them into context and make smart decisions. That fascinates me too (and satisfies my nosy nature).

What made you work in the charity sector?

This position at Alzheimer’s Research UK attracted me away from a career pretty much defined by corporate finance. It was a new role that not only required finance skills, but would also see me growing the corporate services function, which fed my hunger to know and shape the bigger picture of an organisation. It’s been a breath of fresh air. The generosity of supporters continues to inspire me and it’s gratifying to maximise income for the benefit of life-changing research rather than shareholder expectation.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Taking on this new role at Alzheimer’s Research UK, supporting more than 25 per cent income growth over the past two years and shaping the corporate services function to support a doubling in the size of the organisation. It’s been a new challenge, but a real personal achievement that means our employees can now focus more valuable time on charitable activities, powering more dementia research than ever before.

What do you do outside work?

I’ve just finished a two-year MSc in charity accounting and financial management, so that’s taken up a lot of my time outside work. But I still find time to play squash two or three times a week and switch off from it all with my family, ideally on a cruise.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far?

My parents for always believing in me and supporting me to where I am today, even when I told them I was packing in work to go to university. And my very first boss, who taught me the inner workings of a small finance function, an invaluable lesson for scaling that up in a rapidly growing organisation such as Alzheimer’s Research UK.

If you were charities minister for the day, what one thing would you do?

It’s hard to choose just one. I’d champion a concerted effort to standardise how charities report expenditure and impact to donors in a simple, clear and consistent way that recognises the need to invest in the right people and infrastructure so that donors can make informed decisions about who they want to support and why.

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