Kickstarter was launched April 28, 2009 and quickly changed the landscape for not only this hobby, but the entire way that small companies and individuals are able to fund their projects. In the nearly five years since it's inception over a 136,000 projects have been launched through the company's website and over a billion dollars have been pledged. Yet not every project is successful.
Of the 136,122 projects that have been launched in Kickstarter's five years only 57,366 (42%) projects have successfully funded; and out of those who have successfully funded 74% of them have been for less than $10,000. Now, there are outliers in the Kickstarter program where individuals have asked for more than $10,000 and succeeded but the odds of success are dramatically cut. Of all successfully funded projects 23% ask for an amount between $10,000 and $99,999 - which means that only 10% of all launched projects fund at that level. When asking for between a $100,000 and $999,999 the success rate among all successfully funded projects drops to 1.9%, and when compared to all launched projects that success rate is a measly 0.8%. For projects over a $1,000,000, the rate of success when compared to all successfully funded projects is 0.1% - and only 0.04% of all launched projects succeed at this point (see Kickstarter Stats for more).
So How Does Funding Work and What are the Dangers?
If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing (Kickstarter, FAQ)
The problem with phrases like the above is that it tends to make people feel like they're in the wild west and that they can get away with anything, like burning their product rather than delivering it. The truth, however, is far less murky and more dangerous for project creators.
If they're unable to deliver the promised project then ". . . creators need to find a resolution. Steps could include offering refunds, detailing exactly how funds were used, and other actions to satisfy backers . . ." (Kickstarter, FAQ) or the backers could sue the shit out of them (in case you're considering suing read Why this jilted Kickstarter backer decided to sue — & why he was right before you do to see how he was successful in the attempt).
Yet being sued isn't the worst thing that can happen to a failed project creator. When you fail at this sort of thing it's incredibly public. Your reputation and self-worth can be completely undermined as happened with Seth Quest and his failed Hanfree Ipad Accessory project. People are driven away from their public lives and become nomadic wizards, recluses, and broken men. You're labeled a liar and a thief - even when you're far from it.
What if I Miss Out On a Kickstarter and Want In Later?
Under normal circumstances the only way to get involved after the project has funded is to contact the project creator directly, but doing so can invite disaster unless you're very careful about documentation and have a solid link on getting updates to the project. So use this option as a last resort.
Instead I recommend either waiting until the project goes for sale on the wider marketplace or going to Outgrow.me. There you'll find a ridiculous amount of successfully funded Kickstarter products for sale - often at reasonable prices.