Conservation tender program have been widely applied to biodiversity conservation in Australia and internationally in recent decades. Increasing participation rates is critical to these schemes, as competition is required for the cost-effectiveness benefits of the tender system to be fully realized. However, knowledge relating to the drivers of landholder participation in tender programs is limited. This study aims to identify the relative importance of different drivers of participation in Victorian conservation tenders. The novel method of maximum entropy ordinal regression is used given the small sample size, and supplemented with qualitative data obtained through face-to-face interviews. The regression analysis reveals that strong relationships between agencies and landholders and a low administrative burden drive increased participation. The provision of education, support, and easily-integrated management practices, however, may drive lower participation, with landholders confident to undertake conservation activities independently of assistance. Some evidence emerges that ten-year contracts may be well-received. A key concern is low additionality in biodiversity benefits, with typical tender participants displaying a strong conservation ethic and high levels of management activity pre-participation. This work has shown that in conservation policies involving self-selection by participants, economic incentives for adoption may be less important than non-monetary drivers. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.