Oh, woe is The Pollyanna! Her humble aspirations are practically a Tragic Dream because she's poor/an orphan/meant to suffer at the whims of the cosmos. But what's this? She wakes up one morning to discover the exact thing she wanted/needed at the foot of her bed!
Method of delivery may vary, but this gift is the hallmark of the Anonymous Benefactor, someone whose "altruistic" motives and identity are a mystery. Usually it's someone who knows her (or him) and wants to help her while maintaining anonymity. This may be because they: would rather not lose their Jerkass reputation by revealing their good nature, want to avoid breaking some stuffy officious rule by showing favoritism, or to avoid getting caught by the authorities if they're a fugitive.
Of course, not all gifts are ultimately good, and some may herald incredible changes to the recipient. If the gift is the Sword of Plot Advancement given to the The Chosen One, it signals the start of their adventure — whether they want to go or not.
Of course, the Anonymous Benefactor might have less altruistic motives and send a Trojan Horse with the intent to harm her, or as a means to ensure the hero gets the MacGuffin so they can steal it. Other possibilities include the Anonymous Benefactor helping a minor villain or non-evil rival to the heroine. In which case this is usually a ploy by the Big Bad to give the hero someone else to chew on while their own Evil Plan advances.
Usually their identity is discovered or revealed at the end of the story, at least by the viewer. More often than not, it's a parent, sibling, or someone the heroine helped long ago. A good many characters may decide not to look this gift horse in the mouth despite having known enemies.
See also Help Yourself in the Future and Unexpected Inheritance. Related to the Mysterious Employer, where the benefactor offers the character in question steady work, at the cost of not asking too many questions. Compare Mysterious Backer.
- Hayate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the mysterious uncle who provides for her every need ever since her parents died. He's later revealed to be Admiral Gil Graham, who knew that she possessed the Book of Darkness and was planning to permanently seal the book with her when the time is right.
- It seems to mainly be a case of Hayate not referring to him by name when she mentions him to Signum in Episode 6, as she specifically asks Shamal to send her package to "Graham-oji-san" in the last episode of A's, and mentions him being responsible for raising her in Episode 13 of StrikerS, which would suggest she knows her benefactor's name.
- In My-Otome, Sergay Wang supports Arika while she is at school without her knowing who he truly is. When she and Nina find out he was her benefactor all along in the middle of Nagi's attack, this sets the stage for Nina's FaceHeel Turn.
- Rino in Best Student Council is supported by "Mr. Poppit" so she can attend a prestigious school. We later learn the identity of Mr. Poppit is Kanade Junguuji.
- Maya Kitajima of Glass Mask enjoys the attention of an anonymous fan from the very beginning of her career. "Purple Rose" (as she calls him, for the bouquets of purple roses he sends after performances) is later revealed to Maya to be Masumi Hayami, a businessman whose outward persona aggravates Maya.
- This is the premise of My Daddy Long Legs. Penniless orphan Judy is sent to school (high school, in this adaptation) thanks to an anonymous benefactor. It turns out that her benefactor is her love interest, Jervis Pendleton, which makes this a case of Wife Husbandry. To his credit, that doesn't seem to be what he initially intended.
- Happy Heroes: In Season 4 episode 44, a person hidden in a bush costume works to keep Happy S. from harm, saving him from booby traps and a man-eating plant monster, as he searches for the location in a childhood photo of Doctor H. that he accidentally destroyed. That person turns out to be Doctor H. himself, who later explains that he went through a similar journey with his father that culminated in the photo being taken.
- J. Jonah Jameson is a notorious skinflint, obnoxious boss, and all-around Jerkass to Peter Parker (and worse to his alter-ego Spider-Man). But when Peter was accused of murder Jameson made sure he got the best defense attorney money could buy - on the condition that Peter never find out who was paying the bills. He also secretly bankrolled the alternative newspaper Front Line during the Civil War, despite it competing directly with the Daily Bugle, because his former top reporter was using it to criticize the pro-Registration side (something Jameson couldn't do directly).
- Jameson's Metropolis counterpart, Perry White, became this in the Silver Age story "The Boy Olympics". Having heard that the Planet's rival paper is in danger of closing, Jimmy Olsen comes up with the idea to do an "Olympics" fundraiser to save the jobs of the employees. Midway through the rehearsal, he realizes he forgot about advertising costs - but then an anonymous package arrives with enough funds to cover it. Not until the end of the comic does Jimmy realize that his boss sent it, remaining anonymous so the other paper's editor wouldn't perceive it as "charity".
- In an early issue of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), a distraught Tails tells Antoine that he lost a backpack with a Power Ring that Sonic told him to hold onto, and he can't go get it because it's late and dangerous and other, concerned-for-his-safety Freedom Fighters will never let him out of Knothole at this hour, but he can't ask Sonic for help because he's petrified of disappointing his hero. Antoine, sympathetic to his plight and gratified that his first choice for a Plan B was the town laughingstock, agrees to help. Throughout his search, Antoine is saved numerous times from certain doom by contrived coincidences he appears not to notice. Once he's returned with the backpack and sent Tails off to bed, he thanks Bunnie for running interference. Bunnie protests feebly but isn't fooling him.
- Scrooge McDuck tend to make charity anonymously, because the more people think he's a heartless skinflint, the less people will try and beg or mooch off him.
- The Animorphs are this to the titular trio of Sporadic Phantoms. They've helped them out, most notably in episode 7 where Ax gives Kyle a recording device with a message that one of the trio is a Controller, but they know nothing of the overall goals, size, and structure of the Animorphs.
- In the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover "A Captain and a Madman", the Doctor basically does this at the fics conclusion; as thanks to Captain Picard for his help, the Doctor goes back and makes a minor change to history to save Robert and Rene Picard from the fire that would have killed them, with only Picard realising that the Doctor was involved due to Roberts description of the man who woke him up in time to stop the fire.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Omake-exclusive character Reel serves as one, as three of his four appearances have him pop in briefly and give some information and advice (while not spoiling anything that they won't find out on their own later) to the characters.
- The direct-to-DVD kid flick EZ Money ends with the $30 million that the film's villain Dulane Delante thought was transferred to her bank account instead spread around to a number of needy orphanages, schools, and such anonymously.
- In Terminator Genisys a T-800 Terminator is sent back to Sarah Connor's childhood to protect her and we have no idea who did it.
- My Love Came Back: Mr. Manette the rich businessman pays anonymously for Amelia the violin player to continue studying at Brissac Academy...because he's a member of the board and she's drop-dead gorgeous and he wants an excuse to spend time with her.
- Now You See Me had a mysterious benefactor who brought the Four Horsemen together and gave them everything they needed. In the end, they find out it's the federal agent who was pursuing them for most of the film, who was on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the people he felt responsible for his father's death.
- The Count of Monte Cristo is this to the family of his former employer.
- In Great Expectations, Pip assumes that the wealthy, eccentric Miss Havisham, guardian of his Unrequited Love Estella, is his benefactor. To his dismay, he learns that it's really Abel Magwitch, the escaped convict who had intimidated him years ago into stealing food for him.
- He's much nicer now. Raising sheep in Australia will do that apparently.
- In Harry Potter, Harry receives his Invisibility Cloak from an anonymous benefactor as a Christmas present his first year. Two years later (exactly), he's given an expensive, top-of-the-line broomstick from another benefactor. Both times, he discovers who it was by the end of the year.
- Later, in Goblet of Fire, a "benefactor" enters Harry into the Triwizard Tournament and gives him assistance by proxy, although his motives are less than benevolent.
- A Little Princess has one for the main character.
- In Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series (a follow-up to her Song of the Lioness quartet), Kel, the main character, receives gifts from an anonymous benefactor. These gifts, like bruise balm and training weights, help her in her quest to become the realm's second Lady Knight (the first being SotL's Alanna). At the end of the third book, after two books worth of build-up, we learn the Anonymous Benefactor is Alanna herself. Not a huge twist and not even supposed to be, as we know from the beginning that Alanna wanted to help Kel with practical advice and is forbidden by the King for political reasons.
- The entire plot of Daddy-Long-Legs is that orphan Judy gets sent to college by an anonymous benefactor that she is required to write letters to.
- In The Mysterious Island, various events of good fortune happen to the impromptu colonists on Lincoln Island, which they gradually come to realize are not an accident but some unknown benevolent force assisting them. Eventually, they discover their benefactor is none other than Captain Nemo himself.
- In Greek Ninja, Sasha and her team are helped by an unknown person when they get in a pinch with centaurs.
- In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe book Time Lord Fairy Tales, this is played with in "Helena and the Beast". Rather than a curse, this Beast is the victim of an accident that scrambled his DNA, and only a scientific cure can save him — one it seems no one can formulate. The heroine winds up helping him by helping an Unexpected Character, the Twelfth Doctor, serve as this trope, though neither of the lovers learns the whys and wherefores of their willingness to help, much less who they actually are.
- In The Mark and the Void, a mysterious benefactor pays off all the rent The Ark owed, allowing them to stay open, and pays off Paul's mortgage. Of course, it's only mysterious in-universe; it's pretty evident that Claude is the one behind it.
- A Christmas Episode of M*A*S*H has Charles Winchester as the Anonymous Benefactor, carrying on a Family Tradition from back in Boston. They'd leave a Christmas feast for some poor family at their doorstep. In Korea Charles leaves chocolate candy at the orphanage, which the head of the orphanage subsequently sells on the black market; when Charles discovers this and confronts the orphanage head, he learns the proceeds from the sale went for rice and cabbage (i.e., everyday food which the orphans really need much more than candy). Charles realizes that was the point of his tradition, to help ease the suffering. However, the rest of the unit didn't know about the tradition and treated Charles like a greedy Scrooge since they were unaware he was the Anonymous Benefactor, or even that there was one.
- A Christmas episode of The Jeffersons had George doing this for the family that lived in the same crummy apartment he grew up in.
- In Bones, the scholarship program that allows Wendell to keep his internship is about to shut down, but is saved at the end of the episode by an anonymous donor. Turns out it's Dr. Brennan. And Hodgins. Independently.
- Another episode has Booth making suspicious visits to a hospital. He's setting up a carnival for the sick kids; he feels his good deeds should be anonymous, per a Bible passage about selfless giving.
- In the Christmas Episode of Glee Season 2, the person who gives Artie the Re-Walk exoskeleton — thus sort of fulfilling Brittany's Christmas wish that he be able to walk again — is not identified but is strongly implied by the direction to be Coach Beiste.
- Sid turns into this on CSI: NY. He'd gotten rich from his pillow patent, then was touched by a number of cases that came through his morgue, people who'd lost loved ones and then had further trouble with their life. After being diagnosed with cancer and realizing he was likely going to die from it, Sid decides to anonymously give them each $1 million. Everyone thought the 'Guardian Angel' was another really rich but Jerkass guy; although he took credit for it, Jo found out the truth via fingerprints.
- Crime Story featured a brutally karmic version — a director of porn movies who used captive young runaways in his films is caught and arrested. Awaiting trial, he's visited by a high-priced lawyer from an anonymous benefactor, who easily gets him acquitted. The director smugly assumes someone powerful appreciates his talent and will be funding him from now on, then, outside the courthouse he meets the benefactor — the head Don of the syndicate... and grandfather of his latest 'star'. He gets taken for a ride...
- 30 Rock has Liz eagerly playing Santa for a poor family in a charity program — when she arrives at a low-income apartment with a big box of stuff, a man takes it without a word and shuts the door. She gets furious thinking it was part of a big scam, so she comes back later demanding satisfaction — and a cute young child answers the door. She melts at the sight of him and tells him that she bought the gifts. The child, shocked, realizes there is no Santa, and his dad chews her out for her self-centeredness.
- In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Marguerite is this to Challenger, initially. She finances his expedition for reasons of her own.
- On Person of Interest, Harold will sometimes take this role for some of the POI's. Once he bought a hotel, then made a POI the manager (she was a maid in the hotel who had been studying hotel management). Another had him foot the bill for a young POI to go to a very exclusive private school.
- The whole point of the 1955 CBS drama "The Millionaire." The title character, John Beresford Tipton, would anonymously send a check for $1 million each week to a random every-person, and each episode showed how this windfall affected those people. It was such a hit that viewers actually wrote CBS to ask for a $1 million check from him.
- Hospital Playlist: Jung-won runs the Daddy-Long-Legs program, which helps people pay their hospital bills, anonymously. He uses the money that rich patients pay for VIP treatment at the hospital his family owns.
- Jewish legends have a few variations on a story where a notorious miser dies and is so disliked by his neighbors that he's buried in the section of the cemetery reserved for criminals and sinners. However, on the following Friday, the town's rabbi suddenly gets multiple requests for money to help pay for the Sabbath meal; apparently, somebody had been secretly depositing money on the poor people's doors every week, but this week it was nowhere to be found. The rabbi quickly realizes that the miser was doing this charity in secret, and requests that when he dies, he be buried in the place of honor next to "the holy miser."
- Every kith in Changeling: The Dreaming can recharge his glamour in different ways. Helping people with tedious and odious tasks is the Boggans trademark, especially if they can do it without the person knowing. The boggan cannot accept payment or thanks for work and preferably the person helped shouldnt even be aware that the boggan was there.
- The G-Man and his Employers from Half-Life could be counted, seeing as how he is pulling the strings behind pretty much everything.
- The Advisors of Half-Life 2 are the Orwellian propaganda variant. The only people to see them are (unlucky) rebels, Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman. To everyone else, they are anonymous entities who oversee the situation on Earth.
- The the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, Garrus's dossier reveals that his mother has a terminal illness. In response, he donates some Collector tissue and has Mordin pull some strings to get special clearance on the research that might lead to a cure for Corpalis Syndrome. At the end of the letter in the dossier, the doctor assures him that as per his request, his donations will remain anonymous.
- Miranda Lawson also qualifies as this, as she has secretly been keeping her younger twin sister Oriana under careful surveillance, making sure she leads a life of normalcy. Miranda's loyalty mission consists of trying to safely but secretly ensure Oriana is safely transported off-world, where Miranda has ensured that her adoptive parents will have well-paying jobs. At the end of the mission, Shepard can choose to encourage Miranda to reveal her identity as Oriana's sister and silent guardian.
- The mysterious letters you receive in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim pointing you to Words of Power you haven't yet discovered.
- In Bravely Default, one NPC in the city of Eternia mentions that a sick girl regularly receives payment for her treatment from an anonymous person, who is hinted to be Ciggma Khint.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap provides an explanation for why the many Links of the Zelda series can find Rupees and other items under rocks and in grass: the Minish put them there because they like helping humans.
- Make a Good Mega Man Level Contest 2 has this in the form of a mysterious cloaked figure who shows up from time to time. The first time you meet them, they give you an E-Tank in addition to the warnings that become a part of their character. When Wily shows up to make things worse, the figure gives critical information about the Energy Elements that Mega Man has been collecting, which gives Mega Man the ability to go after Wily. It's hinted that the figure was mistreated by Wily in the past. It turns out to be the Off-Model "Zero" from the previous contest, unhappy about two things: His mistreatment by Wily (being used as a distraction, allowing Wily to escape), and his inability to have a proper battle with Mega Man. Once Wily is dealt with, and he has his proper battle against Mega Man, he is finally satisfied, and ascends to a higher plane of existence, leaving his last Energy Element for Mega Man.
- In Deltarune, the Bonus Boss of Chapter 2, Spamton G. Spamton is revealed to have been down on his luck earlier in his life. One day, he received a phone call, and suddenly his sales started shooting through the roof, getting to the point where he was a member of the Arc Villain's posse. However, the phone calls eventually ended, leading to him losing all his riches, and being banished to the dump. All that is known about the caller is that, when Spamton was evicted, his phone was spouting garbage noise.
- Villain example. In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Kraven the Hunter receives anonymous tips about Spider-man, convincing him that Spidey is the only Worthy Opponent he'll ever find and that he should hunt him. It turns out this was all part of the Master Planner aka Doc Ock's plan to recruit Kraven for his new Sinister Six.
- In Danny Phantom, Valerie's life is ruined after ghosts trash her father's laboratory. As she pines for a way to destroy all of ghost-kind in revenge, a mysterious box from the DALV Corporation grants her a high-tech suit and Hover Board, both loaded to the gills with weaponry, so she can do just that. She doesn't recognize the DALV Corporation at all, but she's more than happy to accept their gifts.
- An Al Brodax Popeye cartoon spoofed the aforementioned series The Millionaire in an episode in which Popeye himself would give $1 million checks to his friends, then he'd mingle in his regular sailor suit to see how they were doing. Wimpy bought a farm of cows (but didn't have the heart to slaughter them), Swee'Pea bought a $1 million candy bar, Olive blew hers on a massive makeover, and Brutus bought all the spinach farms in the country — and had them plowed under. (It ended well for Popeye, though.)
- An attempted invocation occurs in The Simpsons episode "Missionary: Impossible" when Homer attempts to anonymously donate $10,000 to end the PBS pledge drive as soon as possible, thinking that since he couldn't really afford the donation, he won't have to worry about them finding him. However, he Didn't Think This Through, as he forgot that he signed up for Insta-Trace, which soon identifies him for the station.
- One early King of the Hill episode dealt with Hank's friends ditching him because they thought he was making too much of a big deal out of being accused of not returning a porno movie he insisted he never rented. He didn't care about Bill, because "he brings nothing to the fight," though what hurt him the most, was Peggy, who told Hank to return the tape and pay the fine, ditching him too, after she got tired of telling him to pay back the video store. Later, a Mysterious Stranger leaves Hank several porno movies at his doorstep, with a note claiming that the proof that he was telling the truth could be found in the tapes. After looking at the tapes, Hank discovers that the movie he was accused of never returning was released several weeks after Hank supposedly rented it. After winning in court, Bill leaves another anonymous note congratulating Hank.
- The Unknown Troper.
- Around Christmas time 2011, department stores from all over the U.S. reported people going to the Layaway counter and either making considerable payments on other people's layaways or paying them off entirely, allowing those families to provide Christmas presents to their children that they would not otherwise be able to.
- Albert Speer, the Nazi minister of War production, secretly gave away a large part of the royalties of his autobiography to Jewish charities. Apparently he was afraid of being rejected or branded a hypocrite if he gave charity openly.
- Dark Money donations.