Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) is an online platform where everyday people throughout the world can raise money for their creative projects.

Kickstarter has helped people make films, teach animal husbandry and butchery, design and build new iPhone apps, record albums, start bakeries and much more.

Kickstarter is helping Maine Grains at the Somerset Grist Mill close a funding gap to get the grist mill up and running this spring. The mill will make fresh locally grown and milled flour available to customers of The Pickup, a Community Supported Agriculture business in Skowhegan and people across New England.

Kickstarter is a new form of financing, and this campaign marks the first attempt in Skowhegan. Currently, 101 projects in Maine are seeking funds through Kickstarter.

Here’s the way it works: Project organizers define a specific project and a target fundraising goal using a short video; modest contributions are pledged by online backers (usually around $25) to support a specific project.

If the funding goal is met with enough citizen pledges by a certain deadline, backers receive a reward and the organizer receives the money to proceed with the project.

Since its creation a couple of years ago, Kickstarter has moved millions of dollars to creative entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, musicians, designers and filmmakers.

It has spawned a new form of raising capital, called crowd-funding, an alternative to large bank loans and foundation grants.

Here’s what seems so interesting: these are not loans or investments. There is no collateral. If Kickstarter projects are fully funded, backers will never see their money again. And, there is no guarantee that the projects will even succeed.

Why do people give money to friends, peers, fans and ordinary people they don’t even know?

Maybe it is for the rewards: a T-shirt, a CD, one of the first items off the production line. Maybe people give to play a small part in making a dream come true; to not just buy something, but be a part of creating it. And maybe, giving is just a way to fuel a community of hopeful change-makers in dark economic times.

Whatever the reason for the rise in crowd-funding, it’s a heartwarming look at how technology can bring us all closer together, while at the same time building better businesses and a better world.

Amber Lambke is co-founder of The Pickup, a CSA program in Skowhegan. Her work has resulted in revitalizing the former county jail into the Somerset Grist Mill. She is also a director of the Maine Grain Alliance and developer of the Kneading Conference.