The Black Cats' new owner estimated that you could put together 'seven or eight teams' in League One just off Sunderland's cost base - and that's without any player wages.
Sunderland's high running costs are a hangover from their spell in the Premier League which saw expenditure spiral upwards.
And while rivals in League One may assume that the Wearsiders will dominate financially, Donald believes that the financial 'burden' left by the previous regime means that they have to act sensibly.
But he is determined to turn things around and ensure that Sunderland's potential - especially in regards to crowd numbers - becomes an advantage.
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Such running costs were no surprise to Donald, whose due diligence involved a studious examination of all the figures available - but he admitted he was shocked by the extent of them.
He said: “Obviously the [club’s] numbers didn’t surprise me because I had them to formulate an offer but was I surprised how bad they were? Yes.
"You look at Sunderland, the fanbase, the stadium, the potential, you think it should be functioning pretty well.
“Then you look at the cost base and you find that excluding players, running this club costs more than 20 teams in League Two turnover, and that’s before we pay a footballer.
“That is quite scary.
Donald has already appointed Tony Davison as Managing Director as he looks to shake-up the club's operation.
Costs have to be reduced - a job which takes priority for Donald - and he knows if these can be reduced then fans' money can be spent investing in team rather than merely sustaining the operation.
“You could put together seven or eight teams in League One and that would cost the same as the cost base here, before you pay a player," he admitted.
"So when you go into League One you think you’ve got a massive financial advantage, well we’ve actually got a financial burden that we have to deal with in a sensible manner.
“We have all these fans paying their money and the trick is to get that working so that we can use to our advantage, rather than paying costs which in all honesty is a hangover from the club thinking it was going back to the Premier League when it didn’t. That’s a job to do.”