In ancient times, if you wanted to buy or build something for which you didn't have sufficient funds for yourself, you needed to take a loan. Either from peers, your parents, or a bank. Until very recently, this principle stayed the same. You need money, you borrow it, you pay it back to one institution with instalments.
But in the past few decades the internet emerged, this miraculous invention that connects people around the globe and disrupts all the structures that have been built up in the last few thousand years. So too with financing.
In the last years, a number of crowdfunding websites have come up, the most famous one at the moment being kickstarter.com.
The way it works is more or less like this: someone has an idea for a documentary, children's book, toy, invention etc., but can't afford all the involved costs herself. Instead of going to a bank and asking for a loan, or making a business plan and looking for investors, she makes a video explaining the idea, the people behind, and the possible outcome, and puts it on the kickstarter website. There, she will ask for financial support, and offers specific perks in return.
For a contribution of 10$ f.ex., she might offer your name to be mentioned in the end of the documentary, as supporter. For 50$, you will receive the DVD Gold Edition, for 500$ you'll receive the Platinum Pack, a T-Shirt, and a visit to the place the documentary was made. The limits are infinite, and the contributors numerous.
As of March 2015, almost 80.000 projects have been fully funded, with over 1,5 billion dollars of pledges. Some of the most advanced tech projects get funded via kickstarter, e.g. SCiO, a pocket-size spectrometer that scans the molecular structure of many materials. (link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/903107259/scio-your-sixth-sense-a-pocket-molecular-sensor-fo). The inventors asked for 200.000$, and received stunning 2,7 Mio $. Or a project called PowerUp 3.0, a tiny device that turns a simple paper plane into a remote controlled battery powered airplane that you can steer with your smartphone. Sounds amazing? I agree. Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/393053146/powerup-30-smartphone-controlled-paper-airplane
Other examples are the Oculus Rift, one of the first widely accepted virtual reality headsets (link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1523379957/oculus-rift-step-into-the-game?ref=most_funded), or projects around ethical clothing, sustainability, upcycling etc.
Another, maybe bit less famous crowdfunding platform is Indiegogo.com.
While Kickstarter works for people in the US and some other countries, Indiegogo works in over 200 countries. New crowdfunding platforms for specific purposes are emerging constantly, f.ex. for startups, science projects, games, sports initiatives, book projects, events, concerts, arts, eco- and social projects… Also platforms for groups of people are launching, f.ex. authors, athlets, journalists, musicians, designers…
The idea is simply to distribute the costs involved to a large number of people, who give either for a good cause or to receive a perk in return. The side-effect is that the people are connecting with the makers, inventors, authors, artists etc on a direct basis, with practically no middleman involved. A decentralization of funding is born, that will keep on disrupting the traditional structures of debt, that enslaved humanity since the dawn of mankind (see: David Graeber - Debt: the first 5000 years).