Tender and offset programmes have been broadly applied for biodiversity conservation throughout Australia. This analysis identifies the relative importance of a range of factors that determine the overall cost-effectiveness of these programmes to guide future management, based on the perceptions of survey respondents with experience in their design and implementation. The novel method of maximum entropy regression for categorical response variables is used to analyse survey results. Key actions for tender programmes, in order of decreasing importance, are the: (a) provision of adequate funding, (b) development of flexible tender designs to aid organisational efficiency, (c) promotion of landholder competition, (d) identification of low-cost means of monitoring, and (e) establishment of strong relationships with landholders. In comparison, key actions for offset programmes, in decreasing order of importance, are the: (a) establishment of efficient organisational processes, (b) promotion of a short time lag between development and the restoration of ecological values, (c) employment of contracts of extended duration, (d) investment in landholder education and support, and (e) development of appropriate biophysical models. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.