Buy a fixed-rate bond, and your income stream is constant. Buy a dividend-paying stock, and there's always the chance that the distribution will grow as the company's prospects improve. That's the double bonus of companies that raise their payouts. It's more money for the shareholders, and it may very well be a better company with stronger fundamentals, too.

Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

Lennar (NYSE:LEN) rewarded investors who have held on to their stock despite years of "housing-market bubble" jitters. Yet another quarter of record results had the fast-growing home builder hiking its quarterly distribution from $0.1375 to $0.16 per share. The company's recent robust run culminated in Lennar beating outGoogle (NASDAQ:GOOG) for inclusion in the S&P 500 index. Lennar's new yield will be 1.1%. Even though the S&P 500 is yielding 1.9% these days, indexers won't be missing a beat as the company that Lennar is replacing -- Gillette -- was also yielding just 1.1% before it was swallowed whole by Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG).

Life may be like a box of chocolates for Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (NASDAQ:RMCF) shareholders, but that doesn't mean that they don't know what they are going to get. The company squeezed a quarter of a penny to hike its dividend to $0.07 per share. The small uptick comes despite a rather blah quarter in which same-store sales dipped for the company. And, no, the comps were not dipped in chocolate. However, the company's unit expansion helped offset the store-level weakness. That moved earnings higher and gave the sweet retailer leeway to offer more than its old $0.0675 quarterly payout.

Air conditioner specialist Watsco (NYSE:WSO) is keeping its cool as it heats up its dividend. The company is kicking its quarterly distribution 43% higher to $0.20 a share. The dramatic increase was the result of "confidence in the company's growth strategy and strong financial position." With the construction market booming and the obvious rebuilding efforts on the Gulf coast, Watsco's air conditioners, heaters, and refrigeration equipment should be selling briskly.

Chicken processor Sanderson Farms (NASDAQ:SAFM) was another hiker. The company's quarterly dividend is getting a 20% boost to $0.12 a share. Despite posting lower sales and profits through the first nine months of the year, the company will be paying out only 15% of its trailing earnings with the higher distribution.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate companies that are sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew's liking these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.