George Washington’s Mount Vernon

A large website extension project which affects millions of people annually

George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in the United States with more than 85 million people having visited the estate since 1860. Five Jars has been collaborating with Mount Vernon since 2018 and is responsible for the digital advancement of the web environment. Together with our client, we create a user experience which blends into the excitement of visiting the landmark later in the user journey.

  

+35%

Increase in tickets purchased

The percentage of people that purchase tickets online has jumped from around 15% to 45%–50%

+2mln

Website visitors


Website views have increased and gained 2,000,000 more followers

75k+

Transactions processed

More than 75,000 transactions processing every year

-50%

Saved hosting budget

Saved around 50% of the budget by migrating a website to AWS hosting environment

George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in the United States with more than one million physical visitors per year. For many of these visitors, the journey to Mount Vernon starts with visiting the official website to find all necessary information regarding tours, tickets, and opening hours. Overall, the website generates over 8 million unique views throughout the year. They partnered with Five Jars to help with difficult technological challenges, to update and advance their web environment and add additional features to their ticketing platform and website. As we are experienced in working together with non-profit organisations and the Tessitura ecosystem, we were the right choice to team up with and started straight away by analysing the web environment. We help Mount Vernon constantly innovate what they do online.

Bringing the infrastructure up to date

Five Jars partnered with George Washington’s Mount Vernon to maintain, update and enrich the custom-made platform used for selling tickets online, generating donations, managing membership levels, cultivating relationships and creating events and tours. The underlying CRM running all these operations is Tessitura. Our developers added new functionalities to the platform for selling tickets online based on the Symfony Framework. Further, they created synergies between the marketing website based on the  BigTree CMS and Tessitura CRM and its web product called TNEW.


Our developers participated in maintaining and extending a custom developed platform integrated with Tessitura CRM on many levels. Since 2015 this platform has been under development and every year new features and improvements have been added to it. This platform is organically growing along with Mount Vernon's actual needs and the Tessitura CRM capabilities. Our team was responsible for the following areas: 

Support of existing functionalities
Developing new features
Developing new integration with 3rd party services
Analytics configuration
Security audit and security fixes
Upgrades (vendors and BigTree CMS)
Support and maintenance of 3rd party integrations

Tessitura

Tessitura Network and their CRM were born out of frustration of no available CRM fulfilling the specific needs of non-profit organizations. The main objective for our developers was to migrate custom functionality developed specifically for Mount Vernon to the new TNEW environment of Tessitura Network. While this was relatively straightforward, our developers proposed Mount Vernon to enhance the CRM with additional features to keep the process of updating and maintaining the website as simple and cost effective as possible. More precisely, we helped to migrate a large part of the ticketing platform onto the new TNEW environment and adapted the CRM with a custom solution which streamlines the future updating and maintenance and saves more than 50% of the workload associated with these processes. TNEW is the new web solution of Tessitura and offers a full range of functionalities for the websites of its clients.

Image
Tessitura in action

 

This is an outstanding achievement as the CRM handles all ticketing processes, donations, membership administration, donor cultivation, analytics and customer communications. Therefore, it’s the heart of George Washington’s Mount Vernon web presence and must be as simple as possible to be maintained and further developed. Long story short, Tessitura is a unified CRM system that allows organizations to see each interaction across every area of their business: 

  • Admissions & Attendance
  • Tickets, Packages, Subscriptions
  • Memberships
  • Contributions (donation)
  • Donor Cultivation & Stewardship 
  • Relationships & Networks
  • Customer Preferences & Interests
  • Communication 
  • Analytics

+2 mln followers

Enriching the platform with additional functionalities focusing on a streamlined customer experience resulted in an increase of 2 million new followers

Tripled online purchases

The percentage of people that purchase tickets online jumped from approximately 15% to 45%-50%

8 mln users

More than 8 million users use the website maintained by Five Jars

BigTree

BigTree is a CMS system which Mount Vernon has been using for years. One main challenge was that the CMS is relatively new and hasn't been used by many websites before. This means it is not yet fully developed and some bugs were identified by our developers. As BigTree was the main marketing CMS for Mount Vernon and its outstanding marketing functionalities were still required, we created an integration with Tessitura.

Ticketing group


Five Jars got to know BigTree CMS in-depth and contributed to its community by publishing some bug fixes. Additionally, our developers created a custom solution to create synergies between the two systems and to run them both together smoothly and without any issues. We reused BigTree’s database for storing information and adapted it to ensure the usability within the wider Mount Vernon web environment.

Enriching the ticketing platform

The original ticketing platform included both the estate and the mansion building by default. Due to restrictions of simultaneous visitors, visiting the mansion has become an optional feature. Five Jars implemented the new approach of purchasing tickets so that entry tickets can be purchased for the estate even though the capacity for the mansion building may already be reached. Moreover, depending on the membership level, users have a certain number of free tickets they can use whenever they wish. The new ticketing platform feature includes the functionality to recognize logged-in members and their number of free admissions tickets. Our developers improved the ticketing platform to get  prices on the fly via API and showed the available tickets per day, integrating the membership information and allowing booking tickets separately for both the estate and the mansion.

 

Mansion Tour

+50% speed up

The new approach of caching data speed up pages on 50%

-20% operating costs

Time required to maintain ticketing platform reduced by 20%

75, 000+ transactions

More than 75 000 transactions per year

+13% transactions

Increase in web transactions since 2018

10+ features

We added more than 10 additional functionalities with new ones already in planning

Apple Wallet integration 

We all know it from our personal lives – we have everything on our phones and whatever service we use, if it does not offer mobile-compatible solutions, it simply doesn’t feel right. Five Jars acknowledges that prerequisite and created a mobile-first approach to the ticketing system. While the traditional PDF ticket is still available, tickets can now also be added to the Apple Wallet, Android Wallets as Google Wallet, and other passbook apps as well as be shown through a simple barcode directly on the phone. This truly simplifies the process of obtaining an entry ticket and proving one’s right of admission to the staff. With our solution, visitors will see an apple wallet button on the order confirmation page from where they can save their personal entry ticket with one tap to the Apple wallet. Visiting Mount Vernon has never been easier.

Checkout without barcode

 

 

Offering tours and events made simple

Tours and events are what make Mount Vernon so popular. Throughout the year, Mount Vernon holds dozens of events and hundreds of tours, which means that these must be represented accordingly on the website. Five Jars has added additional functionalities to the way all the content is presented. After our update, every event and every tour has a specific URL which loads the information directly from Tessitura. By connecting the webpage to Tessitura, users can immediately see the available spots, when the tour starts and many other important information.

 

Special Events

In 2020, our developers created a new section that allows users to buy group tickets, book tours and register for events. By introducing this new functionality, we enabled our client to offer more sophisticated experiences online prior to a visitor's arrival.

 

+20% bookings

Tour and event bookings increased by 20% with the new functionalities

-95% of possible mistakes

By connecting the CRM with the event page, the percentage of incorrect information about event prices decreased by 95%

+40% tours and events

By reducing the workload for administrative tasks, the actual number of tours and events increased by 40%

From dedicated servers to AWS

Five Jars recognized the cost-saving potential when moving the entire web presence from existing dedicated servers to Amazon Web Services cloud servers. By migrating to Amazon AWS, George Washington’s Mount Vernon was able to save between 40% and 50% of hosting costs. To create a smooth transition, we reconfigured the ticketing platform for the new hosting, configured automated deployments via GitHub and configured an automated jenkins job to backup the database, distribute it to the stage and development environments, and many other things that help us automate their daily routine. Five Jars demonstrated that we think outside the box and pro-actively search for improvements for our clients. We do believe that our transparent approach to customer management is the key to the long-term success for both our clients and Five Jars.

 

-50% costs

The transition saved 50% of their costs related to dedicated servers

-30% deployment time

The transition saves yearly 30% of time on deployments

+10% uptime

AWS guarantees 99.99% uptime, which is an increase compared to before

 

A single sign-on for greater user satisfaction

Customer experience is one of the most important differentiation factors across web presences and becomes increasingly vital for anyone’s success. Five Jars knows that and always integrates comprehensive UI/UX approaches into projects. That is why we integrated a Single Sign-On solution for both guests and employees to increase user satisfaction and retain users. As the website, ticketing platform and TNEW are different systems, the SSO creates synergies and increases the simplicity of the user journey. Moreover, based on the SSO, we have created the option to make content only accessible for specific membership levels by blurring or completely hiding the content from the page if only members should be granted access to it. 

 

Single Sign On

 

 

Sophisticated analytics capabilities

To date, Mount Vernon did only use limited analytical methods to drive their marketing campaigns. While the website generated a vast amount of data, the infrastructure was not ideal to make the information accessible and retrievable. Therefore, Five Jars integrated analytics capabilities across the entire infrastructure. George Washington’s Mount Vernon is now able to use all user data captured by the Tessitura and BigTree CRMs and all additional features such as Single Sign-On, donation history and more. Furthermore, we have supported our client by configuring and using Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Facebook Pixel in order to thrive their success both through Google search and social media search. By enabling our client to use sophisticated analytics possibilities, we guarantee their success in the future and their ability to make informed decisions.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Analytics

Five Jars strives for transparency and implements future-proof opportunities in each project. This not only helps the client but also ourselves as we create the most convenient and effective relationship. We value our clients above everything. George Washingon’s Mount Vernon has been a client of ours since 2018 and we are looking forward to more exciting projects coming along our way. Let’s have a talk about your projects and how we can establish a long term relationship.

“They always search for ways to make deployments easier and less cost-prohibitive. They have the ability to scale, cover work in different time zones, and provide services at more affordable rates. They also have a diverse workforce working around the globe. Overall, you’ll always feel that they’re taking care of you.” 

 

© Matt Briney, VP Media & Communications, George Washington's Mount Vernon 

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