Who's worthy of your money? — Project creators are encouraged (and sometimes required) to give as much information about their project as possible, including specifications and proofs-of-concept, end goals, potential obstacles, and progress updates. You can also ask questions of a creator if there's something specific about their project that you'd like to know about. Creators are accountable to you, so you can use this information (or lack thereof) to decide who gets your pledges and who doesn't!
Only pay for successful projects — When you make a pledge towards a project on Kickstarter, you only have to pay for it at the end of the fundraising period, and only if the project reached its funding goal. Until then, your credit card won't be charged at all!
Get what you give — For most projects on Kickstarter, you can get some sort of reward if you donate enough money to them. For example, if you make a pledge towards someone writing a book or recording a music album, you might score a copy if your pledge is high enough and their project is successful.
Funding is all-or-nothing — While we mentioned this as a "pro" if you want to donate to a project on Kickstarter, it's a "con" if you're trying to fund a project. You have to meet or exceed your project's funding goal by your fundraising deadline, or you don't get any money at all.
Strict project guidelines — Kickstarter has rather stringent guidelines for what projects it will allow, and what it expects creators to do to make the process of working on their project as transparent as possible. Though this is meant to preserve accountability between creators and their backers, it does limit the type of available projects or rewards on Kickstarter.
Limited payment options — Kickstarter currently only accepts major credit and debit cards (including prepaid cards) to pay for pledges. It does not currently accept cheques, money transfers, or electronic payment services such as PayPal.
The bottom line: 8.5 / 10
Out of the most popular crowdfunding websites out there today, Kickstarter is probably the simplest to use. It's especially easy and safe for people looking to donate to projects. Donations don't go through unless a project meets its fundraising goal, and there are easy ways to investigate a project to make sure that it's one that you really want to donate to. Plus, you can often get tangible rewards for donating, instead of just financial incentives!
Kickstarter has some limitations, though. It's only available in a handful of countries, and only accepts credit or debit cards as payment (as opposed to money transfers, or electronic services such as PayPal). Also, projects hosted on it have to fit into one of 15 categories, and must have some sort of tangible end result (i.e. they can't just fundraise to give to a charity). While these restrictions help to keep donors safe and project creators accountable, they may also add obstacles to donating or creating an acceptable project fundraiser.
Kickstarter is probably the website that you want to start with if you're just getting into the "crowdfunding" scene, whether you're looking to make your first donation or try your first project fundraiser. Once you learn the ropes, you can move on to some Kickstarter alternatives that allow more types of projects, flexible funding (i.e. you keep whatever you raise, but at a higher cost), and offering of financial incentives (such as company stock) as rewards.
If you've never used a "crowdfunding" service like Kickstarter before, we have some tips on how to keep yourself safe while using it in our next article. Or, if you'd like to jump right in and make your first donation, head over to our How to Use Kickstarter lesson!