Scott Burkholder and Michael Owen run the Baltimore Love Project, a nonprofit campaign to spread public art -- in the form of the word "LOVE" -- across Baltimore. They recently had great success using a website called Kickstarter to raise more than $6,500 for the creation of a new mural in East Baltimore. ( screenshot / June 13, 2011)

Welch, a manager at a California technology company, said he likes giving to Kickstarter projects — he has donated more than $1,000 — because they are "tangible" and he enjoys helping people create something from scratch.

"You feel like you have an ownership role in it," he said.

Strickler said the two-year-old site has featured 20,000 campaigns, with more than 8,500 of them reaching their goals.

Overall, more than $60 million has flowed to projects through Kickstarter, with about a third of funding going to filmmaking, Strickler said. Music and art projects have been the next highest-funded ventures. The average amount raised is about $5,000, he said.

But Strickler and others caution that crowdfunding campaigns are far from easy work. Entrepreneurs typically have to spend a good deal of time online promoting their campaigns, through email and Facebook, Twitter and other websites.

Artists and nonprofit executives also have to figure out whether rushing to raise money online in a matter of weeks is worth their time. Sean Stannard-Stockton, head of a California firm that advises major private donors, said some might find the effort is more trouble than it's worth — literally.

"It is entirely plausible that many crowdfunding projects cost the nonprofit sector more in time and expenses than the amount of money given to the winners," said Stannard-Stockton, the chief executive of Tactical Philanthropy Advisors.