Lisa Hoover 0 Junior Poster

I've been noticing a trend in recent weeks among large companies, small businesses, and consulting firms and I must say, it warms my heart. It seems that people are more interested in giving to the less fortunate this year than exchanging wacky Secret Santa gifts or having indulgent holiday parties.

Open source software vendor Red Hat announced recently that they've decided to forgo a big Christmas bash and donate the money they would have spent to a local charity instead. Local food banks in the Raliegh, NC area where the company is based will be able to serve about 800,000 meals to the needy thanks to Red Hat's generosity.

Employees at mobile push email company, Funambol, have organized a canned food drive to line the shelves at a food panty in San Carlos, CA. Company CEO Fabrizio Capobianco says his staff came up with the idea on their own because they "just wanted to do something to help.

Collaboration software vendor MindTouch is taking a slightly different approach to charity this year. The company will make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund in the name of every MindTouch Deki Open Source user that upgrades to the the commercial version. Specifically, the donations will go toward saving the endangered emperor penguin population.

A blog post on the company's Web site reads in part, "Penguins represent a lot to those of us in the tech and computer industry but believe it or not, this magnificent Antarctic bird means a lot to conservationists, scientists, kids and even recently, Hollywood. For those of us living in San Diego we have a special, soft spot for penguins (especially emperor penguins) because SeaWorld, San Diego is one of only two places in the world where emperor penguins are kept in captivity."

A desire to spread the wealth is limited to just software vendors. PR, social media, and consulting firms are also getting into the spirit of holiday giving. Pistachio Consulting's Laura Fitton returned from a trip to India last year only to discover she had contracted the intestinal ailment dysentery. With access to quality medical care in the U.S., Fitton recovered but says she saw firsthand how dirty drinking water kills 5,000 children every day.

Fitton organized a gift-giving campaign called Well Wishes in order to bring clean water to impoverished communities in Africa. Using social media tools like Twitter to mobilize others, she is simply requesting people make a $2 donation to Charity:Water, a non-profit organization that specializes in clean water projects.

I know there are plenty more companies and individuals doing good works this holiday season. Tell me about them in the comments.