Check out Britt Bravo's blog entry Ten Holiday Gifts that Give Back--a wonderful short-list of resources for meaningful gifts that will help change the world for the better.
I have interviewed a couple of people who sent out notes asking for no more gifts this year, stressing that "we have everything we need and want." Instead, they encourage their friends and family to choose their favorite charitable institution and make a donation on their behalf.
I have been an advocate of this kind of gift-giving early on. I have checked out Global Girlfriends.com and bought hip accessories for my friends from them. I am also glad that the proceeds go back to women artisans in third-world countries who are ensured fair trade and wages.
Kiva.org is an organization that helps us make small loans out (as small as $25) to start-up micro-businesses like selling charcoal, helping a seamstress buy a sewing machine, or seed money for a crafting or knitting group.
My mom donates to a children's hospital that helps out sick children. World Vision sponsors orphaned children for $35 a month.
There are also earth-friendly gifts you might want to consider, like Your Own Bags.Com. Giving these as gifts will encourage your friends and family to use reusable bags and save landfill space and keep our marine life safer.
We can also look into out local communities and help out struggling non-profits with our donations/gifts on behalf of our gift list. We can also organize collection points or encourage our community towards a donating project. One Warm Coat.org asks only for warm winter coats and sweaters for adults and children. Our local contact is Jaime Pearson at (925) 997-8117. She will collect used coats all throughout November.
I don't many winter coats, in fact I only have at a time. Since I am ready to buy a new one, my 10-year old black wool coat will now have a good place to go. With many more warm years on her, I am sure she will keep someone else warm for a couple more years.