I love to kick off the new trading week by taking a quick peek at companies that have just hiked their dividends. It's not just about the money -- a company that's loosening its purse strings probably has improving fundamentals to back up that generosity.

Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking. Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher over the past week.

We'll start with Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI). The leading organic grocer is harvesting a bumper crop of quarterly disbursements, improving its rate by 11% to $0.20 a share. The company has now increased its dividend five times since initiating a payout policy four years ago.

Mattel (NYSE:MAT) is another hiker. The company may have hit a rough patch with all its recent recalls, but as the toxic toys come in, more money is going out to its shareholders. The company's annual distributions are climbing 15% higher to $0.75 a share. Mattel has now enhanced its yield in each of the past five years.

Given Mattel's weakness, the shares are now yielding a sharp 3.8% -- comfortably more than rival Hasbro (NYSE:HAS), at 2.4%, or companies like JAKKS Pacific (NASDAQ:JAKK) and LeapFrog (NYSE:LF), which don't even pay a dividend.

You want more pocket change out of your Nike (NYSE:NKE) investment? Just do it! The athletic-footwear juggernaut is picking up its game for the sixth year in a row. Shareholders will now be receiving $0.23 a share every three months, a 24% improvement over its most recent rate.

Finally, we have Lancaster Colony (NYSE:LANC) lighting up again. The candle maker, which also dabbles in foodstuffs and automotive wares, is waxing up its quarterly rate by $0.01 to $0.28 a share. Not impressed? That's just half the story. If the annual streaks at Nike, Mattel, and Whole Foods intrigued you, consider this: Lancaster has now improved its dividend in each of the past 45 years.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. The newsletter singles out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

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

Whole Foods Market and Hasbro are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks.

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