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Involuntary Charity Donation

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"The most formidable criminal mind in Europe has just had all his money stolen by perhaps the most inept inspector in the history of Scotland Yard. You will be making an anonymous donation to the Widows and Orphans of War Fund. Bishop to Bishop Eight, Discovered Check, and incidentally.... Mate."
Sherlock Holmes to Professor James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Steal a villain's money for yourself, and it may be easy for him to take it back (particularly if he has no compunctions about killing you). But what if you steal it and donate it to charity? Even if he can get it back, there'll probably be no way for him to do so without tarnishing his public image. Bonus irony is accrued if the charity in some way makes up for the villain's misdeeds, or if the charity happens to be something contrary to the villain's values.

This is the ultimate way to punish any Corrupt Corporate Executive who's a Slave to PR. Compare Just Like Robin Hood, a slightly more direct (and frequently more violent) style of wealth redistribution.

Contrast Fake Charity, which is when a Con Man creates a phony organization to fleece gullible people into making voluntary donations.

This may be an Ending Trope, so expect unmarked spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A villain in the Lupin III: Part II episode "Charity Begins at Home" decided to donate all his money to charity when he was told he was about to die. When he discovered he'd been misdiagnosed, he hatched a plot to pretend Lupin had stolen his money, so he could keep it all to himself. In retaliation, Lupin tricked him into really donating his money.
  • A Death Note one-shot has a new Death Note owner decide to sell it online instead of using it, after the U.S. Government wins the auction with $10 trillion he tells them to split the money evenly between every account at his bank, leaving him and several thousand other Japanese people with a billion yen apiece. This also impedes attempts to trace him and ensures that he'll remember getting the money after giving up the notebook.

    Comic Books 
  • The Black Panther did this to ruin Doctor Doom. Given Doom's Joker Immunity, this is probably the closest anyone other than Squirrel Girl's gotten to actually beating him.
  • After Tommy Elliot, AKA Hush, nearly killed her in an attempt to get to Batman, a recuperating Selina Kyle took every dime the Mad Doctor had and dispersed it amongst charities. "Not bad for a gutter slut", indeed!
  • Two-Face did this to himself in his debut appearance. When his head came up scarred side, he'd conduct a standard bank. When it came up clean, he'd steal a rival gangster's stash and give it to an orphanage or pay off somebody's mortgage.
  • Laff-A-Lympics #7 (Marvel, Sept. 1978) had "The Purple Pig Puzzle," in which a famous gambler, Lucky Starr won the charity money that the Laff-A-Lympics athletes raised. To get it back, he challenges them to search for a ceramic purple pig and gives clues to who has it with a cash bonus to the winner. To hedge his bet, he not only bets $20 million on the Rottens but he has his henchmen help the Rottens. It's Super Snooper who deduces who eventually has the Purple Pig (it was in Captain Caveman's club), and when Lucky Starr tries to take it on the lam, Dynomutt delivers him to the Coast Guard. Flanked by Dynomutt and Yogi Bear, Starr sheepishly says all the money in his suitcase is earmarked for charity.
  • In the World War I comic, Charley's War, when Charley Bourne returns to London after being injured in the Western Front, he discovers that his no-good brother-in-law stole jewelry from the victims of a Zeppelin air raid. As punishment, Charley forces him to donate every penny he's made from fencing his ill-gotten gain, to a soldier's relief charity.
  • In JLA: Earth-2, when the heroic Lex Luthor from the antimatter universe replaces and imprisons the Luthor from the main DCU, he apparently enjoys doing this with Lexcorp funds:
    "Oh, and divert funding from our armaments division to—let's make it 'Greenpeace' this time. And all of our employees could do with a raise. 200%? Three."
  • Exploited at times by Scrooge McDuck, who would set up a situation where he ends up "forced" to give large sums to charity so he can maintain his skintflint reputation.

  • The Karma of Lies: Part of Lila's plan to save her own skin is to make Adrien her scapegoat by engineering a situation where he accuses her of a crime and the resulting police investigation completely clears her, making it look like Adrien was trying to throw her under the bus rather than the other way around. To this end, she convinces him to give her ten thousand euros for a security system and to repay their classmates, then skips town with the money. To back up her story when the police come calling, she plans to buy an expensive security system and then donate the rest to charity, which is in line with the letter of what she said she would do.
  • Vigilante Tendency: The head of the most powerful crime family in Asia runs afoul with a small-time Yakuza group called the Momokyokai. Now aware of them and the existence of their ally — who he believes to be another small-time family — he demands 50% of the revenue from their last operation and gives them a bank account to deposit future payments. A week later, the Difo family is crippled after Tsuna hands said financial information to Shoichi, who summarily donates all of the Difo's money to numerous charities.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the end of the Double Dragon (1994) movie, the heroes use the Dragons to possess the defeated villain. The "villain" then donates all of his money to the police department and allows himself to be arrested.
  • At the end of the remake of Fun with Dick and Jane, Dick and Jane forge Jack's signature to set up a relief fund for former Globodyne employees using the money Jack stole from the company. That was their plan for the last part of the movie (although they needed Jack to personally sign the transfer form), but Jack appears to thwart them by recognizing the ploy and seems to come out on top. Dick, desperate for something, demands a check from Jack. Jack writes him one for a small amount as a symbol of what he considers Dick's worth. Before Jack can transfer the money somewhere safer, Dick copies the signature on the check to a new transfer form and submits it before Jack. The next morning, he wakes up to a cheering crowd of former employees and news cameras, thanking him for his generous donation.
  • Ghost (1990): Oda Mae Brown does a variation of this to the villain — with Sam's help, she's able to steal the money from a special account, turn it into a check, and donate it to a nuns' charity.
  • During the second performance in Now You See Me, the Four Horsemen crack their sponsor's bank account and distribute the money to Hurricane Katrina victims his company had stiffed on their insurance claims.
  • As payback for an attempted double-cross by Terry Benedict in Ocean's Thirteen, the crew donates his entire share of the profits to charity in his name. Shortly afterward, Danny, Rusty, and Linus watch Benedict talk to Oprah Winfrey about his "sudden burst of generosity". He (somewhat) willingly goes along with it, recognizing both the bad publicity of taking it back and the good publicity of saying he did it.
  • The movie Rat Race, with the twist that the winners are giving the money they won; they just also made a huge public statement that the multimillionaire who had been using them as human pawns throughout the film would match the donations made in the whole charity event.
  • In The Scarecrow, Carver the villain hacks into good guy Jack McEvoy's bank account and donates all of his money to charity. It's part of a scheme to murder Jack and make it look like a suicide.
  • This is Moriarty's final humiliation in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows—the money he'd raised from War for Fun and Profit gets pilfered by Sherlock's own machinations and paid to a fund for widows and orphans of war. Since Moriarty is a diabolically intelligent sociopath, he doesn't really have any one person he cherishes (like Irene Adler for Sherlock), so Holmes instead targets the thing he cherishes: his fortune. Sherlock details meticulously how Moriarty lost his fortune all while scoring a Surprise Checkmate against Moriarty in a game of chess, the last plays of which were done in their heads.
  • The main character of Sneakers does this to the Republican National Committee, sending all their money to Greenpeace and the United Negro College Fund. This was also done in the prologue, where the hero and the eventual Big Bad robbed then-President Nixon and donated the money to a PAC dedicated to legalizing marijuana (although this does lead to one of them being arrested and the other going on the run for the rest of his life).
  • The main character of Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998) does this to two villains who are exchanging a sum of money electronically, by sneaking into their office and changing the payee on the electronic transfer while their backs are turned (and sneaking out while they argue). Subverted when an FBI agent admonishes him for ruining a sting operation, then Double Subverted when it turns out that said agent is a Dirty Cop (which Jackie Chan's character already suspected).
  • In The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, when the townspeople are raising money for King Richard's ransom, Robin (in disguise) riles up the crowd to publicly shame the Sheriff of Nottingham into a matching donation of over a thousand marks. Meanwhile, the Merry Men have been raiding the treasury, and just as the Sheriff says his funds are exhausted and he wishes he could give more, they show up and empty his entire treasure chest into the donation pile. The look on his face says it all, but there's nothing he can do because the people are all cheering for him.
  • In The Substitute, after protagonist Jon Shale ruins one of Principal Rolle's drug exchanges and takes the money, we then cut to the following day with Rolle wondering who could have interfered with the exchange and a few seconds later he hears Shale's voice on the school's PA telling the students that the school just got a nice new donation from an "anonymous donor" of furniture, gym equipment, computers and there's pizza for everybody in the gym if they want it.
  • The alternate ending of Swordfish has the hacker protagonist transferring all the funds of the villains he had been working with to charity.

  • This concept is more or less the entire point of Robin Hood, who in a time of crisis and unlawful taxation stole from the rich to distribute their wealth among the downtrodden.
    "The weight of your purse makes you weary, I'm sure. Why not hand it to me, and if it seems too heavy, I'll share some with those who have less."
  • The Jewish folk hero Hershel Of Ostropol once tricked the village miser into unknowingly making a tzedakah donation to charity (Hershel himself, since he was poor with a wife and many children), to ensure his soul would go to heaven.

  • Happens to Jon Spiro in Artemis Fowl, who gets 90% of his billions donated to Amnesty International. Artemis had intended to keep the lot for himself, but got hit by a sudden attack of conscience and satisfied himself with a 10% "Finder's Fee" (Spiro is already going to jail, so this is just salt in the wound).
  • In the Discworld, Sam Vimes of the City Watch routinely shakes down unsuccessful Assassins who fail to get him, by demanding they donate the equivalent of the promised price on his head to the City Watch Widows and Orphans' Benevolent Fund.
  • Regularly done in the Saint books by Leslie Charteris. If Simon Templar was not retrieving money that had been stolen from someone, he would keep 10% and donate the rest to an appropriate charity.
  • Repairman Jack's Annual Kid Baseball League Charity Drive. Play a helpless tourist/woman, attract a mugger, rob him, fence his valuables, donate, repeat.
  • Inverted in Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel Unnatural Acts. When the ghost of a bank robber learns he can't spend any of the money he'd hidden before dying in prison, because the bank's insurance company will confiscate it, he donates it all to charity himself so they won't dare try to claim it for fear of bad publicity. (He didn't really have any use for it anyway, as a ghost.)
  • In William Gibson's short story Burning Chrome the two "Console Cowboy" protagonists hack the Swiss bank account of a local mob boss and donate most of it to a dozen different charities because the sum was simply too big to move discreetly and they needed to make sure that she couldn't put out a hit on them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: When Liz and Jack are briefly married, Liz gives a press conference dressed like a nouveau-riche housewife and puts on a thick Long Island accent. To add insult to injury, she uses Jack's money to fund "The Jack and Elizabeth Donaghy High School for Teen Drama, the Arts, and Feeeelings", all concepts that repulse him.
    Liz: [on TV] Jack and I pledge five million dollars to create a new generation of choreographers and puppeteers, clowns, video artists, and theatrical jugglers who will ask the world, "What is art?"
    Jack: We know what art is! It's paintings of horses!
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: When the action of a hacker causes the death of a SHIELD agent, Agent Coulson gives the one million dollars the hacker received to the family of that agent, then locks an electronic bracelet around the guy's wrist, preventing him from using electronic devices, and strands him in Hong Kong.
  • Happens in Hannah Montana when Miley and Lilly are trying to stop the Alpha Bitch from winning a prize. However, besides the usual twists that they end up having to donate the money to charity, the girl they were trying to get to win is okay with losing, because it means even more money raised for the charity.
  • Hellcats: The series finale has Marti blackmail the chancellor of Lancer University into retirement over his cover-up of a member of the football team robbing a convenience store. Since it led to an innocent ex-con being wrongfully convicted and sent away effectively for life, she tells him he'll be donating his entire severance package to a cause very dear to his heart: repealing Tennessee's three-strikes law.
  • Home and Away: Eric Dalby, prior to his Face–Heel Turn, managed to frame someone else for an arson he did and claimed the reward money from people who knows he's the true culprit. As he comes onto stage to collect the cheque, Alf and Dan whip it away from him and announce that he's donating the money to charity.
  • In I Love Lucy, Ricky tells Lucy he'll take her and Ethel if they can raise the money for tickets to Europe. Lucy then comes up with two fictitious women that need to make their way to Europe and raises money for them. Lucy orders Ethel to give the two women their ticket money after a detective told Lucy they would go to jail for running a charity scam.
  • The Listener: A crime lord's bank account is electronically raided by a double-crossing thief, and the police arrest her. Then they tell the Smug Snake crime lord that the missing funds were (surprise!) apparently disseminated among a whole bunch of children's charities worldwide: as soon as he provides concrete proof that the account's contents were legitimately earned via legal means, they'll start tracking them down. The investigating team's computer expert is nicknamed "Robin Hood" by the others in the denouement.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl remembers a list item: conning an old man out of money by making him think he was donating to a charity helping starving children in Africa. He then finds out that Joy had kept the con going throughout their marriage, and after their divorce, and had gotten a couple of other trailer-park women in on it, too. To get the old man his money back, Earl plants a fake will in the man's house (and sends him on a vacation for a week) and sets up a phony lawyer (actually a homeless man that Joy had humiliated in front of the entire Crab Shack) to ask for the $5000 total from the women that the old man had been conned out of. In a twist, the man realizes that Joy and her friends could definitely use his help, and continues to donate to the fake charity because it makes him feel good to help people.
  • Power Rangers Time Force's "A Parting of Ways": After the Monster of the Week captures a bus load of children and holds them for a ransom of 10 million dollars, Wes (the Red Ranger) goes to his Rich Snob father to ask for the money. His father refuses, so Wes tricks a business client of his father into giving him a check. Eventually the Rangers manage to save the children without giving the ransom, but Wes' father is angry with Wes for what he did. Then the press finds out about the money and thinks Mr Collins has donated it willingly to free the hostages. Wes, who by now is fed up with his father, tells the press it was Mr. Collins' idea that he is going to donate the money to charity before packing his stuff and leaving the house.
  • A Prince Among Men: Episode 2 revolves around Gary intending to buy and demolish the local church and replace it with a go-kart track. However, the Church catches wind of this and cancels their sale of the Church to Prince. To add further punishment to him, they send away the go-karts he has obtained to Cameroon, thinking that they were genuine Charity donations.
  • Probe's "Computer Logic, Part 2": After Crossover was placed in charge of the city's utility companies, it began a Penny Shaving scheme where it added on a few extra cents on everyone's bill so that it could spend the money on donations. By the time its creator asks about the theft, it had already earned/donated a million dollars that way.
  • In Stargirl, during a Dueling Hackers scene between Dr Mid-Nite and the Gambler, Beth distracts the villain by instead hacking his bank account and giving the money to charities.
  • Veronica Mars: Logan tells a news crew that his father Aaron will be donating half a million dollars to a homeless shelter. His father severely beats him for this.

    New Media 
  • This is the basis of a mission on the Outernet official site; As an agent of the Friends, you must hack into the Tyrant's bank account and transfer his money to an ET Save The Whales group, not only crippling his operations, but adding insult to injury by supporting a good cause in his name!

    Religion and Mythology 
  • According to the gospel of Matthew, the thirty pieces of silver are an inversion, where the villains receive an unwanted donation. Regretting his actions, Judas threw the money back at the Pharisees and left, but they decided they couldn't accept Judas' "donation" to the temple because it was blood money. Even though it was them who had paid Judas to betray Jesus in the first place.
    • So instead they used the money to buy a field for foreigners' burials. Based on the simplified account of the same event in Acts, the Pharisees may have made the purchase in Judas' name so they could say they'd technically never accept the money, which would be a straight example of the trope with Judas as the involuntary donor.

  • In The Merchant of Venice, after Shylock takes Antonio to court in Act IV, the trial reaches its climax when Shylock demands justice and Bassanio's offer to reimburse him for Antonio's loan is rejected, and Judge Balthasar (who is Portia in disguise) declares that Shylock is entitled to exactly one pound of flesh, but no blood can be shed, and the flesh cannot be even the smallest bit lighter or heavier than one pound, or he forfeits his fortunes. After relenting, the court finds that because Shylock sought to take Antonio's life, one half of his fortunes are to be awarded to Antonio and the other half goes to the state treasury. After Shylock pleads for mercy of the court, Antonio recommends that Shylock be allowed to keep one half of his fortune, with the other half to be granted to Lorenzo and Jessica as a trust fund and that Shylock must convert to Christianity.

    Video Games 
  • In the game Headhunter halfway through the Evil Syndicate break into a bank is about to transfer all the money from all accounts of the customers to the Syndicate's account. However Jack hero Wade manages to reverse the process and the Syndicate's account gets drained.
  • This is the plot of the "Let Them Eat Pie" quest in RuneScape. The war refugees from Buthorpe are starving while the disgustingly fat rich glutton lives in luxury, so the Player Character poisons him with a disgusting pie made of rotten meat, steals stationery from him while he's puking his guts out, and forges an official demand for the refugees to be given food and help for free.
  • Creating expies of both Martin Shkreli and the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin in the process, Watch_Dogs 2 features a sidequest where Marcus and the DedSec team learn of reviled pharmaceutical billionaire Gene Carcani's love of popular rap artist Bobo Dakes. Upon learning that Dakes is in the middle of making a new album, Carcani offers millions of dollars in an attempt to prevent its public release and keep it to himself. Realising the opportunity, Marcus rips samples of both the new album and Dakes' voice; creating a Bobo Dakes soundboard from the latter and using the former to legitimise their future claims. By hacking into Carcani's living room via his numerous devices, they trick him into paying out his offer - all twenty million dollars of it - before intercepting the payment and diverting it to a leukemia research charity.
  • In Ultima V, Blackthorn's perversion of the Virtue of Sacrifice was to require everybody to donate 90% of their income to charity, or else.


    Web Original 
  • In Neopets, a random event that can happen while browsing the site is the Kiko Lake Yooyuball team "requesting" donations so that they can make it to the Altador Cup sports tournament that yearnote , which results in having a random item that you're carrying "generously donated" to them.

    Western Animation 
  • Carmen Sandiego: While a good chunk of the money Carmen pilfers from V.I.L.E. goes into supporting her globetrotting quest, she also makes a point of donating some of it to charities. "The Lucky Cat Caper" kicks off with Carmen just attending a charity auction to burn off some of the funds when V.I.L.E. coincidentally shows up to steal one of the items up for bid.
  • Corner Gas Animated: In "Rum Punch", Lacey spends the entire episode trying and failing to raise money for Wes' Widow, whose husband died without life insurance. Wanda, meanwhile, fixes a fight between Brent and Hank in order to take all the money people bet on the fight for herself. Seeing this, Lacey announces to everyone that the fight was Wanda's own fundraiser for Wes' Widow, forcing Wanda to give up her winnings to avoid looking heartless.
  • In "The Little White Lie" episode of The Flintstones, Fred has been going out to a poker game against Wilma's wishes. In order to try and hide his winnings, Fred hires a man to pretend to be a burglar and hands the money over to him, convincing him to pretend to rob the Flintstones' house. This falls apart when the burglar makes up a convincing sob story about his wife and kids, and Wilma decides to let the robber keep the money, and the robber threatens to tell Wilma where the money really came from in case Fred objected, so the "burglar" gets away with Fred's poker winnings, much to his chagrin.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch corners Mr. Peevly, who had just won $500 at a wrestling contest (where Botch filled in for an ill star grappler), when the superintendent arrives. The bears tell the super that Peevly is donating the $500 to the society for orphaned zoo animals.
  • Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: McFist becomes a victim of this in "McOne Armed and Dangerous" when the Ninja announces that he's donating one brand-new McFistPad to each person in Norrisville.
  • This is the Twist Ending to the Dirty Dawg short "Marathon Mutt". After Dirty wins the race, Officer Bullhorn immediately confiscates the prize money from him. One of the spectators explains that the prize money was intended for a police charity.

    Real Life 
  • The rationale of the hackers behind the STRATFOR breach was supposedly this.
  • In 2007, the UK's Revenue and Customs misplaced two CDs containing the personal details of all families claiming child benefit in the country, leading to concerns that the information could be used to commit fraud. Jeremy Clarkson responded to this by publishing his own details in his column in The Sun, insisting that any thief would need more information to take any money out of his account and that all the fuss was over nothing. Somebody set up a £500 direct debit from his account to a diabetes charity.
  • The Yes Men are a pair of activists who are known for pulling pranks like this in order to draw attention to various issues. A full list can be seen on their Wikipedia page.
  • Inverted by overzealous or outright unscrupulous businesses; some have made charitable donations in the name of people or entities to secure business contracts, government permits, etc. In many jurisdictions, however, this is illegal as it's considered a form of bribery.
  • People with more conservative political views sometimes argue that all taxes are some form of this trope.
  • A variant is sometimes used as a slyly passive-aggressive form of protest: If you disagree with someone's public position, make a donation in their name to a charity or activist group that works for the opposite position. You get the satisfaction of supporting your cause, and they get a note thanking them for their generosity.
  • As befits a totalitarian government, in Nazi Germany the Winterhilfswerk (Winter Relief) often involved this trope:
  • In Vichy France, some restaurants had their patrons pay 10% of the bill to the Secours national.
  • A 2020 ransomware campaign donated part of the illicit proceeds to charities. Predictably, the charities wanted nothing to do with the money.