even people who run large instances struggle to get donations.
i know for a fact that @stux, the admin of mstdn.social, isn't independently wealthy or anything. he runs a fairly massive Mastodon instance so he should receive fairly substantial donations, but it's not easy. he pays quite big bills for hosting, and when the donations don't suffice, it comes out of his own pocket.
A berserker's gateway to the Mastodon social network. Run by a Norwegian, with servers in Finland.