Investors of crowdfunded projects often have varying motivations, such as early-access products, philanthropy, etc. That said, financial returns are advertised for many crowdfunded projects (essentially, the investors are offered some kind of piece of equity). I tried to find some studies or data on the historical returns for crowdfunded projects, but I wasn't able to find any. Is the expected value for typical crowdfunding investments negative?
Crowdfunding can be a legitimate means of funding very small startups. It is an innovative, but obviously risky, method of raising small amounts of money. As such it is now regulated by the SEC under "Regulation Crowdfunding" They have published guides for these types of business startups to help them with required disclosures and reporting requirements:
Here's the introduction to the relevant regulatory authority of the SEC:
Under the Securities Act of 1933, the offer and sale of securities must be registered unless an exemption from registration is available. Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012 added Securities Act Section 4(a)(6) that provides an exemption from registration for certain crowdfunding transactions. In 2015, the Commission adopted Regulation Crowdfunding to implement the requirements of Title III. Under the rules, eligible companies will be allowed to raise capital using Regulation Crowdfunding starting May 16, 2016.
It is obviously a new form of investment but you should be able to get historical data on the SEC's real time Edgar reporting system once there is some history.