By Anna Ellermeier / The AS Review

Black Friday has passed, but the holiday shopping season is just warming up. If you’re sick of hearing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” while wandering florescent-lit aisles of holiday kitsch, it may be time to reconsider the commercial focus of the holiday season. The pressures and expectations of gift giving aren’t going anywhere, but alternatives to mall-bought materialism are out there.

Countless organizations and foundations, which depend on donations to continue their work around the world, offer creative ways to donate that make for altruistic presents. Plus, the warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll get inside is included at no additional cost.

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL
Heifer International is an organization that works to end poverty around the world by giving families animals and training to help the families become self-reliant. The organization has been operating for over 60 years and has helped families in 128 countries. A small donation of $20 can buy a flock of chicks or geese, while a larger donation of $150 can buy a llama. Shares of animals are also available and most cost only $10. Honeybees are only $30—now that’s a sweet present! The Heifer gift catalog can be accessed online at www.heifer.org.

WORLD WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
The WWF, an international conservation agency founded in 1961, works on projects in over 90 countries on five continents that help to slow the deterioration of the environment. The WWF offers unique gifts that contribute to their projects around the world. For $15, you can “Send a Turtle to Rehab,” which will provide funds for injured or sick turtles in the Bali turtle center to be nursed back to health and reintroduced to their natural waters. Fifty dollars will buy a panda habitat in Asia and $25 will send a child living in poverty to a nature club in Madagascar. For a full list of the WWF gift options, go to www.panda.org.

GRAMEEN FOUNDATION
Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, founded the Grameen Foundation over 30 years ago. Yunus received the Noble Peace Prize in 2006 for his work with microcredit. According to their Web site, they, ”support microfinance programs that enable the poor, mostly women, to lift themselves out of poverty and make better lives for their families. Microfinance helps people to escape poverty by giving them collateral-free loans and other financial services to support income-generating businesses. As each loan is repaid, the money is redistributed as loans to others, thereby mulitiplying (sic) its impact.”

Donations range from $50, which will help a woman launch a microbusiness to $1500, which will give a child a scholarship to go to public school for five years. For the Grameen Foundation gift catalog, visit grameenfoundation.org.

This season, consider refocusing the spirit of gift giving to the world outside your own. These are gifts that keep on giving … literally.