woman wearing a headset and looking at a laptop screen

Welcome to the Otter Side: A Nonprofit's Guide to Otter.ai

From our community: Recently, one of our NetSquared organizers, Rachel Davis, acquired transcription software Otter.ai through the TechSoup marketplace. What follows is a handy at-a-glance guide she put together for other organizations in our community, and we're excited to share her experience of using this great tool with our community. Enjoy!

If you haven't tried out Otter.ai yet, head over to TechSoup right now and check it out. Seriously, It will change your life forever. There are so many different ways you can use this amazing tool in your workflow. I know you're excited already, but don't stop reading yet! The rest of this post will show you how you can put Otter.ai to work at your nonprofit.


Otter at a Glance

Right now you are probably thinking, "What the heck is Otter? You mean those cute sea animals I see fantastic memes about all over the interwebs?"

Nope! Otter is magic. Well, OK, it's not literally magic — it's a fantastically well-done transcription app with artificial intelligence at its core. Actually, it's way more than just a transcription tool. It organizes your conversations, pulls out keywords, allows you to search for specific terms, tag speakers, and even add your own vocabulary.

STEP 1: Get Otter through TechSoup.

STEP 2: Talk to Otter, let it learn your voice. Once you've downloaded the software, you will be prompted to record something so Otter can learn who you are and tag you as a speaker.

STEP 3: Create folders to keep your transcriptions organized. You can actually do this as you go, and you are going to want to organize it all — trust me.

STEP 4: Start using Otter at your nonprofit.

STEP 5: Be amazed.

After your conversation has been transcribed, you may have to go in and clean up your transcription a little, but it's pretty minimal. You can tag your speakers and clean up any misheard words. But Otter learns as it listens, and your transcriptions will get better and better.

drawing of a woman speaking into a smartphone and the speech being transcribed into text on a computer

So, how can you use Otter as a nonprofit? Let's jump right in!


The ever-present meeting. They are going to happen whether we like it or not, so how do you make the most of them?

The Challenge

For any kind of meeting — board meetings to all-hands to meetings with partners — do you really need to to be furiously taking notes with your head buried in your notebook or laptop? Think about how much more present you could be if you didn't have to worry about getting every single word written down.

How Otter Can Help

Open Otter and just press record on the app (it's the microphone button). If you're on an iPhone, you can set up a Siri command and just tell Siri to record on Otter hands-free for the win! Check out this video on how to set this up.

Now you have your whole meeting transcribed. Afterward, you can go back in, tag your speakers, and clean up. You can export the text (and even the audio) to send out as a summary of the meeting.

Blog Posts and Other Content

There's so much content out there just waiting to be captured and used.

The Challenge

I call this the Swan in the Snowstorm Problem. The blank white page staring back at you, mocking you. It happens to all of us, that block, that feeling of dread when you have no idea what to write. The truth is, I bet you have some amazing ideas; you just freeze up when you have to type or write about them! There's a better way.

How Otter Can Help

Think of Otter as your accountability partner: Talk to Otter when you need to get ideas out of your head. Have a thought about a blog topic, or even a promotional email? Start recording, talk through it, and save that transcription. Come back to it later and use it as a starting point for your blog post or email. You can talk into your phone alone, but you can also record chats with others.

Think about that amazing coffee chat you had with a coworker or a friend the other day that spurred some great ideas. Don't you wish you had a way to recall that with a photographic-like memory? Otter can help!

I even started this blog post on the Otter app, recording myself talking about all the ways I thought the app could help nonprofits, and went from there.

Grant Writing

There are many parts to effective grant proposal writing. Otter can help get you started.

The Challenge

I bet you can talk about your mission and your needs all day long — you are passionate about what you do. However, for grant proposal writing, you need to harness that in the written word and tell a story about your cause that creates a connection with a potential funder.

How Otter Can Help

Get the Otter app ready on your phone, hit the little microphone to start recording, take a deep breath, and pretend you're talking about your nonprofit at a networking event. Put in all the emotion that you would if you were talking to your best friend about what you do and why you care about it.

Don't forget to check out your keywords at the top of the transcription. This is one of my favorite features. You can see what words you said the most and find them within the transcript. Those things you said most are probably most important to your content, and it's best to highlight them as you are writing.

Donor and Volunteer Interviews

There are people who care about your nonprofit. They care enough to donate and volunteer. Why not capture their thoughts and share those?

The Challenge

You can gather so many great stories from people who support your cause. Donors give for a reason. Volunteers give their time for a reason. Ask them why and get to know them! You may not be a copywriter or a journalist, but you can still have a friendly chat with them and use what they say to share the love about your nonprofit.

How Otter Can Help

Set up a time to sit down and talk with your donor. If they aren't local, set up a free Zoom meeting and hit record! You can integrate Zoom with Otter and send the recorded conversation right into the app to be transcribed, or you can just upload the file after the fact. If your donor is local, meet them for a cup of coffee and use your Otter app on your phone to record. Once your transcription is ready, you can go back in and highlight quotes and share them directly on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn — talk about a timesaver! You'll also have the option of attaching an audio link to the quote if you like.

Pro tip: Set up a question database to choose from to prepare yourself for each chat. Maybe there are some standard questions you want to ask everyone, but maybe you want to switch out a couple each time to vary your content.

And there you have it, some guidelines to get you started with using Otter. Go forth and do good things!

Additional Resources