An understanding of chemical formation mechanisms is essential to achieve effective yields and targeted products. One of the most challenging endeavors is synthesis of molecular nanocarbon. Endohedral metallofullerenes are of particular interest because of their unique properties that offer promise in a variety of applications. Nevertheless, the mechanism of formation from metal-doped graphite has largely eluded experimental study, because harsh synthetic methods are required to obtain them. Here we report bottom-up formation of mono-metallofullerenes under core synthesis conditions. Charge transfer is a principal factor that guides formation, discovered by study of metallofullerene formation with virtually all available elements of the periodic table. These results could enable production strategies that overcome long-standing problems that hinder current and future applications of metallofullerenes.