She was born to an upper-class family, as the only child of the industrialist Nicolas Sinebrychoff and his wife Anna née Nordenstam. She later married the industrialist Uno Donner. The couple were personal friends with Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the anthroposophy movement. Olly Donner was educated in different schools in Europe, and was fluent, besides her native Swedish, also in French, German, English and Russian.
She wrote in Swedish and French, releasing c. 30 books, including novels, and collections of short stories and poetry. Her books were not widely read or well understood in her time, and although published by major publishers such as Bonnier and Söderström, she had to mostly cover the publishing costs herself.
An endowment, and later will, left by Olly and Uno Donner established the Donner Institute for Research into Religion and Culture, a private research institute and library collection which are today affiliated with the Åbo Akademi University.
- "Donner, Olly". Kirjasampo.fi (in Finnish). Public Libraries of Finland. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
- Mäkelä-Alitalo, Anneli; Heikkinen, Sakari; Keltanen, Minerva (2009). Sinebrychoffit. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. pp. 30–31, 71–73.
- "Olly and Uno Donner: donors ahead of their time". DonnerInstitute.fi. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
- Boguslawski (von), Julia; Westerlund, Jasmine (April 2018). "Putting the spiritual into practice: Anthroposophy in the life and work of Olly and Uno Donner". Approaching Religion. 8 (1): 50. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
- "För den stenrika finlandssvenska Olly Donner var Rudolf Steiners läror meningen med livet". Hufvudstadsbladet (in Swedish). 9 April 2022. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
- "Det har gått 65 år sedan donationen som lade grunden för Donnerska institutet i Åbo". Åbo Underrättelser (in Swedish). 29 March 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
- Westerlund, Jasmine: Olly Donnerin kiehtova elämä (in Finnish; transl. 'The fascinating life of Olly Donner'), WSOY, Helsinki (2022) ISBN 9789510473887
- Olly and Uno Donner on the Donner Institute website