Planning meetings is all about facilitating communication and telling stories, whether the message is pumping up attendees about the direction of an organization or giving them inspiration to further their career goals.

For Charles Chan Massey, a long career of facilitating the sharing of such stories as the founder and CEO of SYNAXIS Meetings & Events has given him the tools to effect change on a much more personal level by giving back to the LGBT community through co-founding The Personal Stories Project.

The Personal Stories Project promotes activism, advocacy and support for the LGBT community and its allies. This is accomplished through sharing the personal, and often heart-wrenching, stories about the journey of coming out and other aspects of life across the LGBT and ally communities.

“I noticed that there was a lot of power and responsibility in sharing your story, whatever that story is,” Chan Massey said. “I needed to do something to help the community, so I figured that giving other people a way to share their voice—to help marginalized people share their stories and help themselves and help others—was the best way for me to do that.”

The Personal Stories Project currently operates under a non-membership, donation-based model and has nearly 3,500 social media followers.

Chan Massey, a volunteer, is the executive director, and finds that bringing his skills and connections as a veteran meeting planner to the effort pays a lot of dividends.

“When we do the fundraising events, I have that skill and experience,” he said.

“Because we have reach, I’m able to get raffle prizes and door prizes from organizations that are much larger than we are because of my connections to the meetings industry,” Chan Massey added.

The Personal Stories That Drive the Project

Chan Massey called attention to a few stories, such as from Michael, which The Personal Stories Project launched with.

“He was kicked out of his house when he was 14, and he basically couch-surfed all through high school, and started a gay-straight alliance in high school,” Massey said.

“Michael is living proof that you can beat the odds,” he added. “Not only did he survive, but he has learned to thrive. I’m gratified that we could help him elevate his voice to help others.”

Charles Chan Massey and Personal Stories Project Storytellers, Credit: Deborah Hart Photography
Charles Chan Massey and Personal Stories Project Storytellers, Credit: Deborah Hart Photography

Through his connection with Chan Massey and The Personal Stories Project, Michael became a professional speaker and contributed his artistic talent to working on Denver’s charity Paper Fashion Show.

Another example is the Project’s videographer, who grew up in a very difficult family environment in Alabama and decided he wanted to give back to the LGBT community through volunteering for The Personal Stories Project.

Other video and written stories include the following:

  • Brisco: An actor from Los Angeles who battled through an HIV diagnosis.
  • Alex and Caroline: Alex had to move from the U.S. to the Netherlands (the native country of Caroline) in order to live together in a relationship because of immigration laws. Since then, the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional in the U.S., and the couple has relocated back to Alex’s home in San Francisco with their two daughters.
  • Curtis: Who grew up in an area where it was very difficult to come out and decided to share his story to help others.

View more stories from The Personal Stories Project.

How to Donate to the Personal Stories Project

Donations to The Personal Stories Project are allocated to a variety of charities, most chosen by the person sharing their story.

“We ask people for money and then we give it away,” Chan Massey said, plainly summing up the business of the Personal Stories Project. “Your donation to us is fully tax deductible, and we have between 12 and 15 other charities that are also 501(c)(3) that are affiliated with us.

“When you’re donating to us you’re essentially donating to other nonprofits as well, and those recommendations are made by our community members,” he added.

Personal Stories Project Charitable Donation
Personal Stories Project Charitable Donation

[Out and Proud: The Rise of LGBT+ Representation in the Meetings Industry]