For many years, our family has exchanged gifts of donations to nonprofits. My wife and kids will make a donation to a charity that they like, and give me a note, or card to open on Christmas day that lets me know about the donation. I love this, and my kids ask for the same thing--sometimes even suggesting the charity.
We also do this for birthdays and other big events, and I know many other families are similarly-minded.
All of which leads me on this Cyber Monday to point you to TisBest Philanthropy. At this nonprofit site, you can purchase a gift card for the holidays, birthdays, anniversary, weddings, whatever. You can get a plastic card to give, or a note, or just have an email sent. Then, the recipient goes back to the website and chooses from one of hundreds of legitimate nonprofits from all parts of the nonprofit sector.
This is a good idea, and one I hope succeeds. In fact, I'm giving my wife a card from TisBest this Christmas...shhh, don't tell her!