M&R’s very cool new compilation of email benchmarks for (mostly progressive) non-profits calls to mind the old joke about the singing dog — the amazing thing is not how well or poorly the dog sings, but the fact that it sings at all.

There are probably methodological quibbles one could level at this pioneering work, but they would miss the larger point — that the non-profit community is starting to view its Internet possessions as communications tools, with objective metrics for for assessing success.

Do open rates really matter? Are the falling NPO open rates just part of the larger industry-wide trend? These and others are good questions, and thanks to M&R, we can have that discussion.

Here’s the BIG CAVEAT. I would argue there are qualitative dimensions to the challenge of building and sustaining cause-based Internet communities that hard numbers do not reveal.

A crisis of content, one could say. More on that soon.