The explicit imperative to “tell a story” recently dominating UK and US fundraising discourse refers specifically to the central compelling “story” of the representative victim/beneficiary, and yet there are multiple stories at work in charity fundraising letters, with interdependent narrative trajectories. This article draws on small stories research and on scholarship on storytelling and ethics to explore the relative narrativity of the stories within charity fundraising letters and their marked contingence upon lack of resolution. This article also disentangles and investigates the interactions among the stories of the representative beneficiary, the addressee as potential donor, and the charitable organization. It discusses the affirmation and exploitation of Western neoliberal individualism in the selective spotlighting of an individual beneficiary, and in the individualized appeal to the addressee. It discusses the tensions between the charitable organization and the addressee as competing contenders for the archetypal role of the “hero” in the narrative of the victim/beneficiary, and reflects on the ways in which the complex narratives of supraindividual social processes involved both in the causes of suffering and need and in their alleviation are downplayed in the service of more impactful individualistic narratives.

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