Investing 101: The Year's Top Performing Dividend Champions

While dividends won't make an investor rich overnight, reinvesting dividends can help get you there over the course of time, and it can add some stability, too.

Dividend champions
While dividends are never guaranteed, one way to feel more confident about investing in a dividend company is to look for companies with a record of consistent payment and yield increases. If a company has a long-standing policy of increasing payments to shareholders, it bodes well for the future.

Thankfully, the DRiP Investing Resource Center makes that task quite simple. Every year they compile a list of so-called "Dividend Champions" -- a list of companies that have consistently increased their dividend payouts for over 25 years straight.

Business section: Investing ideas
Interested in dividend champions?

To create the following list, we identified the top 10 performing dividend champions over the last year.

Do you think these dividend champions will continue to increase dividends and outperform the market?

List sorted by yearly performance. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

1. V.F. Corporation (NYS: VFC) : Designs and manufactures, or sources from independent contractors various apparel and footwear products primarily in the United States and Europe. The stock has gained 65.97% over the last year.

2. Harleysville Group: Engages in the property and casualty insurance business primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States. The stock has gained 61.61% over the last year.

3. RLI (NYS: RLI) : RLI Corp., through its subsidiaries, underwrites property and casualty insurance primarily in the United States. The stock has gained 54.31% over the last year.

4. W.W. Grainger: W.W. Grainger, and its subsidiaries distribute facilities maintenance and other related products and services in the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, India, Puerto Rico, China, Colombia, and Panama. The stock has gained 46.60% over the last year.

5. McDonald's (NYS: MCD) : Operates as a foodservice retailer worldwide. The stock has gained 39.64% over the last year.

6. Cintas: Provides corporate identity uniforms and related business services in North America and Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The stock has gained 38.03% over the last year.

7. Raven Industries (NAS: RAVN) : Raven Industries manufactures products for industrial, agricultural, construction, and military/aerospace markets in North America. The stock has gained 37.19% over the last year.

8. Lancaster Colony (NAS: LANC) : Engages in the manufacture and marketing of consumer products focusing primarily on specialty foods for the retail and foodservice markets in the United States. The stock has gained 35.44% over the last year.

9. Helmerich & Payne: Engages in the contract drilling of oil and gas wells in the United States and internationally. The stock has gained 34.73% over the last year.

10. McGraw-Hill: Provides various information services for financial, educational, and business information markets worldwide. The stock has gained 29.83% over the last year.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.

List compiled by Eben Esterhuizen, CFA. Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Rebecca Lipman do not own any of the shares mentioned above. Data sourced from Finviz.

At the time thisarticle was published Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Cintas and McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.